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TURKEY


 

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 237,972 182,848 147,700 21
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,790 2,500 2,530 92
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 128 - (28/01/08)

EU is still the key
Turkey's central foreign policy goal remains its EU accession negotiations, launched in 2005. Europe is still number one priority, there can be no substitutes. More than 50 percent of Turkey's trade is still with the EU. 
Said a sage spokesman, 'Turkey's higher profile on the world stage is directly linked to its EU candidacy... If Turkey repudiated the EU connection, it would frankly lose much of its prestige with other countries. And Gul understands this very well.' 

Another grave trouble-spot
The world seems blithely unaware that there is real trouble brewing in Turkey that might even see a second invasion of Iraq. It would be of the Kurdish north of the country, adjacent to the south-eastern areas of Turkey, inhabited by 13 million Kurds.

The problem is the Kurdish Workers' party (PKK), which has bases there from which mischief-makers are sent into Turkey to stir up disaffection with the central government. About 3,000 rebels use northern Iraq as a base for attacks in Turkey. The PKK took up arms in 1984 with the aim of creating an ethnic homeland in south-east Turkey, which is mainly Kurdish.

Iraq's El Hakim: We won't allow PKK to harm Turkey
The leader of one of the strongest Shiite political organizations in Iraq, Abdul Aziz El Hakim, has characterized the PKK as a terrorist group, noting also in a speech made before the US Peace Institute that relations between Iraq and Turkey were very good. El Hakim, who is the head of the Iraq High Islamic Council (SIIC), said in reference to the PKK terror organization: "We cannot accept damage to neighboring lands from Iraq soil, and in particular, we do not accept any damage to Turkey. We are working though to see that Turkish armed forces do not enter Iraq. There are many nations working on this front right now. We are also working to see that security in Iraq can be provided by Iraqis themselves." El Hakim, who met last week with US President George W. Bush, noted in response to a question about funding that he and his group received no money from Iran, but did acknowledge that they were "in strong relations" with Tehran. El Hakim took time to underscore in his speech that he hoped for the full withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, noting that free people did not like to have foreign soldiers wandering about in their land. El Hakim also asserted that Iran was playing an important role in the safety and security of Iraq.

Eight more Kurdish PKK guerrillas have been killed in continuing clashes with Turkish troops in southeast Turkey, bringing the total death toll among the rebels so far to 14, the military General Staff said on Wednesday.

Turkey has stationed up to 100,000 troops in the mainly Kurdish southeast region near its border with Iraq in preparation for possible military strikes against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas using northern Iraq as a base.

In a statement, the General Staff said troops had seized ammunition, equipment and other materials belonging to the rebels, eight of whom had been killed. A Turkish army officer and six guerrillas -- four of them women -- were killed in the first of the clashes, in mountainous Sirnak province near the Iraqi border. Turkey's military confirmed on December 1 it had conducted an operation inside Iraq against PKK rebels using the region as a base. Military officials say the operation involved special forces and helicopters.

It has said further such cross-border operations are likely under the terms of a parliamentary resolution passed in October. That resolution encouraged the United States to promise closer cooperation, including intelligence sharing, to help its NATO ally Turkey tackle the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.

Washington is keen to avoid a major, longer-lasting Turkish incursion into northern Iraq, fearing this would destabilise the wider region. As many as 3,000 PKK rebels are believed to be hiding in mainly Kurdish northern Iraq.

Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since the group launched its armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.

The PKK should stand rather for the Party of Kleptomaniacs and Know-nothings. They have learnt nothing from those far- off days of mindless Marxist revolution. The Turkish Kurds voted by a majority for the incumbent party in government in autumn elections, boycotted by the numbskulls of the PKK.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, under intense domestic pressure to act after some 50 soldiers were killed in recent weeks, has pledged to send troops into northern Iraq if such attacks from Iraq continue. 

Imminent action likely before winter sets in
Erdogan told a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) on November 19 that "a cross-border operation is approaching." The meeting was closed to the media. "This business needs to happen before winter conditions worsen," he was quoted as saying. "If we don't see concrete things from the other side, an operation is near," he said.

The death of four soldiers in Sirnak Province on November 13 is likely to increase pressure on the government to authorize an operation, despite logistical difficulties as the weather closes in across the rugged, mountainous region. Security sources said nine others had been wounded in the Sirnak clashes, which lasted more than an hour.

President Abdullah Gul sent a message to General Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the armed forces, conveying his condolences to the soldiers' families, the military and the Turkish public. They were the first casualties of the conflict on Turkish territory since the previous week, when one soldier and three PKK guerrillas were killed in clashes.

Separately, the Kurdistan regional government in northern Iraq denied media reports that Turkish attack helicopters and warplanes seeking PKK rebels had bombed empty villages in the area on November 13 morning. CNN Turk and NTV, citing Iraqi officials, reported that nobody had been killed in the bombings.

Jamal Abdullah, a spokesman for the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, said two Turkish warplanes had dropped flares over a village near Zakho in northern Iraq on November 12.

The choice lies between weapons and democracy
Erdogan said on November 20 that each one must make his choice between weapons and democracy. Speaking at the group meeting of the Justice & Development (AK) Party in the parliament, Erdogan touched on Turkey's struggle against terror. "Despite all the difficulties, we intend to preserve stability in Turkey," Erdogan said. 

"Those who have nothing to talk about keep talking on terror. We will continue to fight against terror and take bold steps in other areas for the best interests of the Turkish people," Erdogan underlined. 

Erdogan stressed that the fight against terror has dimensions involving politics, diplomacy and military. According to him, certain circles criticize him for qualifying the Kurds as "brothers and sisters." "Of course, the Kurds are my brothers and sisters. But so are citizens of Laz (Black Sea area), Bosnian and Albanian origin. Everyone living in Turkey are my brothers and sisters," Erdogan underscored. 

"We have gone nine times to Gulf countries, EU countries and America. Why? To prepare a diplomatic framework for the steps to be taken against terror. So far, no one is against Turkey as far as the fight on terror is concerned. When countries believe that Turkey is right, terrorist organization will no longer be able to find the support it looks for from these countries," Erdogan added. 

There is one new friend in troubled times – Greece.

Greece and Turkey open gas pipeline
Greece and Turkey are edgy neighbours, who have, nevertheless, been getting on better of late. 

As a symbol of good intentions as well as for more mundane reasons, they opened a $300 million pipeline on November 18, creating an energy corridor that connects the rich natural gas fields in the Caspian Sea region to Europe, bypassing Russia and the volatile Middle East. The 300-kilometre pipeline brings natural gas from Azerbaijan to Greece and will be extended to Italy and the rest of Western Europe. 

The 178-mile pipeline solidifies improved ties between Greece and Turkey, linking the long-time Aegean rivals through a project that will give Caspian gas its first direct Western outlet and help ease Russia’s energy dominance as oil and gas prices soar. The two leaders have sought to use an often-cited good personal bond to improve relations between their two countries, which had been strained over decades of territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea. Karamanlis also shares a personal bond with Erdogan after serving as a witness at his daughter's marriage in 2004.

“This project will bring significant benefits both for Greece and Turkey,” said Kostas Karamanlis, the Greek prime minister, who inaugurated the project with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It shows “we can live in harmony and both gain from it,” Mr. Karamanlis said, shaking hands with Mr. Erdogan in a symbolic meeting on a bridge over the Evros River, which divides the countries. 

The pipeline, which will use natural gas pumped into Turkey from the Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan, will initially carry 250 million cubic meters of gas a year to Komotini, in north-eastern Greece, from Karacabey, in western Turkey. Its capacity is expected to triple by 2012, when Poseidon, a 132-mile undersea Greece-Italy pipeline begins operation, forming the Southern Europe Gas Ring project.

“The project is extremely significant — and fundamentally political,” said Julian Lee, a senior analyst with the Center for Global Energy Studies, a London-based research group. “It offers diversified supplies of energy to Europe without going through Russia — an objective encouraged by the United States.”

Signaling Washington’s support, Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman attended the inauguration ceremony near the Greek-Turkish border. President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan also attended.

Russia, the world’s biggest gas and oil producer, accounts for more than 25 percent of EU gas imports, and Western officials have been scrambling for years to forge a viable energy strategy that could ease Russia’s hold on European energy supplies.

Greece and Turkey, meanwhile, have been trying to promote themselves as emerging energy hubs and regional power brokers with a string of energy deals. “This pipeline will boost prosperity in the region,” Mr. Erdogan said. “The Silk Route will also become an energy route linking East and West through Turkey.”

Turkmenistan links to Europe
Turkey plans to offer Turkmenistan access to European markets via Turkey in talks in Ashgabat this week, senior government sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

Turkey, which is seeking to become a regional energy transit hub, will also propose to Turkmenistan a joint venture for operating the ex-Soviet state's abundant natural gas and oil fields. "Turkey will ask to take a role in operating Turkmenistan's natural gas and petroleum fields as we did with some other supplier countries," an official in the prime minister's office said.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul visited Turkmenistan as part of Ankara's drive to strengthen ties with the Turkic-speaking states of Central Asia. Energy Minister Hilmi Guler will join Gul's delegation. Turkey has signed a natural gas supply contract with Iran but some European Union countries have misgivings because Iran is subject to United Nations sanctions over its nuclear programme.

Turkey plans to invest $3.5 billion in Iran's gas fields.
Another official said Ankara is considering transportation of Turkmen gas through a Trans-Caspian pipeline or through Iran.

Turkey has already signed a deal for buying 30 billion cubic metres gas from Turkmenistan, but no concrete steps have been taken on this.

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