Books on Turkey
Update No: 124 - (28/09/07)
The Second Coming?
There is no doubt a monumental event has happened in Turkey. The Turks have
elected an Islamic president to occupy the position once occupied by Ataturk.
Would the great founder of secularism in Turkey be turning over in his grave?
Abdullah Gul is a highly intelligent man, absolutely aware of the very delicate
job upon which he has embarked. He has a terrific task ahead of him - to
reconcile Islamicism and secularism second time round.
Ataturk was certainly a devout Moslem; so is Gul. But they both realised long
ago that theology and politics don't mix.
Gul's wife wears a head scarf; but then so do most Turkish women - perhaps not
many generals' wives - or not . This makes him the ideal person to effect a
compromise. Or not.
The West and the world approves
Congratulations for Gül continue to flood in. As the announcement of the
composition of the new Turkish Cabinet took over newspaper headlines, messages
continued to flow in to the Çankaya Presidential Palace to congratulate its new
resident, Abdullah Gül, elected the new president of the Republic of Turkey on
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned her former counterpart Gül to
congratulate him on his election, expressing her hope that the United States and
Turkey "continue to have a good, positive relationship with him in his new
capacity, that she enjoyed with him when he was foreign minister," US State
Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sent a message of congratulations to Gül. "I
send you my congratulations on your election as President of the Republic of
Turkey. My Government and I look forward to continuing the close cooperation and
excellent relations between our two countries. I send you and the people of
Turkey my best wishes for the future," the queen said in her message.
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, known with his firm stance against Turkey's
EU bid, was among those leaders who sent a congratulatory message to Gül,
voicing hope for stronger ties between Paris and Ankara. "We salute the
election of Mr Gül, who has always shown himself very attached to relations
with France and Europe," foreign ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani told
The greatest testament of all
Meanwhile, quite notably, Robert Kocharian, president of Armenia with which
Turkey has no diplomatic relations, as well as Armenia's Foreign Minister Vartan
Oskanian also sent congratulatory messages to Gül.
He has a high regard for his ability, as have every other interlocuter with the
gifted Turkish diplomat.
Middle Eastern acclamation
Another telephone call to Gül was from Jordan's King Abdullah II. According to
a palace-issued statement, the king "expressed his trust in Gül's ability
... to achieve the ambitions of the Turkish people" while congratulating
Gül's election as the new president of Turkey was described as "a
victory" displaying "a natural demonstration of the region's turn
toward Islam," according to Palestinian movement Hamas' spokesperson Sami
Abu Zuhri. "This historic change will benefit both the Turkish people and
the nations of the region, especially the Palestinian people," Zuhri added.
Israeli President Shimon Peres called Gül and expressed his country's
expectation that friendly bilateral relations between Israel and Turkey would
continue during Gül's term in the presidential office. Peres praised Gül's
efforts for contributing to regional stability and peace.
Neighbouring Iraq's President Jalal Talabani, for his part, expressed his
expectation to see the promotion and cooperation of the mutual relationship
between Turkey and Iraq in the fields of politics, security, economy and culture
during Gül's presidency. "I wholeheartedly congratulate you. Your being
promoted from the Cabinet to the presidency is an indication of the trust felt
toward you," Talabani said.
The wider world in agreement
The secretary-general of the Developing-8 (D8) also congratulated Gül on behalf
of the organization, which was established by Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia,
Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria and Pakistan in addition to Turkey.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who worked closely with Gül when the
latter was serving as Turkey's foreign minister, welcomed his election and said
he was "convinced" that Gül would strive to be a "unifying force
in Turkey, a country undergoing great change." "As foreign minister he
has contributed strongly to the reform process that has characterized Turkey in
recent years and which is key to the country's continued road towards membership
in the European Union," Bildt said in a statement.
America loses Turkey
The mood in Turkey, a once strongly pro-American country, has been transformed
by recent events. The country is now the most anti-American in the world
according to opinion polls, only 9% being in favour.
The reasons are not hard to seek. The horrendous events next door in Iraq are
there for all to see. As many as 600, 000 civilian deaths by some estimates and
no end in sight. They are grateful indeed that the Turks kept out of it. No
Turkish soldiers are losing their lives there nor are they as a nation complicit
with this colonial adventure to secure oilfields, as they read the invasion in
most middle-eastern lands.
But they are finding themselves imperilled by the Kurdish militants of the KKP,
former (and not so former) Marxist Kurds, who have waged a violent confrontation
with Ankara for fourteen years now.
The success of the Kurdish enclaves in Iraq, the one undoubted success story in
the country, is not such good news for the Turks. It is Washington that is
But Turkey has not lost the US
This is not a situation upon which Tony Blair, in his new role as peace envoy in
the Middle East, is likely to have much purchase. He is after all now regarded
as Washington's biggest perceived stooge. The UK is for the time being a busted
flush in the Middle East now.
Ankara is discreetly allowing the US overflight rights. Indeed, three-quarters
of US air-borne supplies to Iraq go over Turkey. The AKP government wants to
keep in Washington's good books, its most important ally in its bid to join the
EU. This is an ironic fact, but true.
When Bush successively pressed for EU entry for Turkey last year, Chirac was
heard to mutter: "We are not pressing for the US to admit Mexico."
European officials, however, immediately became more emollient. The 'road to
Brussels' for Turkey, lies via Washington and its loyal ally, Berlin.