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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: 153 - (26/02/10)

Coup plot thwarted?
Things have come to a head in Turkey. There is a sharp tension between the secular establishment of the military hierarchy and elite, keeping alive the tradition of the great moderniser, Ataturk, and the government of moderate Islamicists of the Justice and Development (AK) Party, which came to power in 2003. The former profoundly distrust the latter and vice-versa.

They both have reason to. People like to pour scorn on the idea of conspiracies. But they can actually take place. They have done so in Turkey before now, the generals ousting democratically-elected governments four times since 1960.

The AKP have long known that they were intensely disliked by the Ataturkists in the state machine. They have suspected a plot was being hatched against them.

They may well have been right. The latest conspiracy seems to have been thwarted. Three of the country's most senior former military leaders have been accused of plotting a coup. They are accused of planning to provoke the Greek air force into shooting down a fighter jet to persuade the public the government was unable to guarantee national security.

The "Sledgehammer" plot is also said to have involved blowing up mosques and museums in Turkey so the outrages could be blamed on outsiders and undermine the government.

Gen Ergin Saygun, a former deputy chief of the general staff, Gen Ibrahim Firtina, an ex-air force commander and Adml Ozden Ornek, the former head of the navy, were held during raids on their homes. A further 50 officers were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the plan. The plan, said to have been formulated in 2003, called for Turkish jets to engage in aggressive manoeuvres with Greek counterparts in the sensitive airspace above the Aegean Sea.

By provoking the Greeks into opening fire the plotters hoped to "turn the clock back to 1923" – the last year of the Greco-Turkish War. Domestic turmoil would be unleashed by separate bomb attacks on prominent mosques.

Once riots and demonstrations broke out, the military hoped to step in to oust the newly elected AK Party, which was viewed with suspicion because of its Islamic roots.

Among the plans was the seizure of the Fenerbahce football stadium in Istanbul to hold people rounded up in mass arrests. The plotters estimated that 200,000 people in the Istanbul area would pose a threat to public order after martial law was imposed.

The secularist Turkish army and judicial establishment has been ensnared by the investigation into the Ergenekon coup plot. It is the latest in a series of plots and conspiracies unearthed since the investigation was launched in 2007. Other schemes included the murder of a Roman Catholic priest and a prominent Armenian journalist.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister since 2003, hailed the latest round of arrests. While Turkey's military, which views itself as the founder of the state, has overthrown four governments since 1960, of late conditions of European Union membership negotiations have left it little scope to depose elected politicians.

After decades of unquestioned military supremacy, the sight of senior military leaders – who are commonly addressed with the Ottoman-era title of pasha – handcuffed and facing the courts is a stark reversal of fortune. Secret recordings of generals plotting have been leaked and the details of the plot have inspired a minor publishing boom.

The investigation has also implicated senior members of the judiciary which, like the military, has resisted the modernising reforms of the current government. Prime Minister Erdogan declared he would use the government's strong parliamentary majority to force through judicial reforms that have been resisted by the conservative bench. "The judicial system should be objective and independent at the same time," he said. "We are willing to carry out a constitutional reform and we're going to bring the issue to the parliament with or without support from the opposition."

PM vows to bring judicial reform package to Parliament
PM Erdoğan addressed his fellow party members at a dinner in İstanbul for the AK Party’s Rize provincial branch and İstanbul provincial branch leadership on February 21.

Erdoğan has announced that his government plans to bring a comprehensive judicial reform package to Parliament after government officials put the finishing touches on it. The prime minister responded to questions from reporters at Istanbul Atatürk Airport before leaving for an official visit to Spain.

When asked whether his government envisions including changes to the current judicial system in a constitutional reform package planned to be introduced by the government, Erdoğan said: “A judicial reform is currently expected by most segments of society, including political parties and civil society institutions. We don’t want to leave these expectations unanswered. Our colleagues are working on it. They plan to bring it to Parliament after completing their review of the package.”

Erdoğan also attended a dinner in Istanbul with the AK Party’s Rize provincial branch and Istanbul provincial branch's leadership. Addressing the participants, the prime minister commented on the recent debate over a decision by the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) to strip four prosecutors of their authority last week. Erdoğan implicitly criticized the HSYK, saying some institutions damage the notion of the impartiality of the law by overstepping their authority.

“They are using political discourse. If you like politics, here is the stage,” he said. The HSYK on February 17 stripped specially authorized Erzurum Prosecutor Osman Şanal of his authority due to his investigation of a chief public prosecutor. The board also relieved another specially authorized prosecutor in Erzurum, Tarık Gür, and public prosecutors Rasim Karakullukçu and Mehmet Yazıcı of their authority over an investigation into Erzincan Chief Public Prosecutor İlhan Cihaner, currently under arrest on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, and falsification of documents. The decision sparked indignation in various segments of society as it cast doubt on the impartiality and independence of the judiciary.

The prime minister also lashed out at unidentified parties who accuse the government of trying to create a “pro-government” judiciary, saying some are trying to cause conflict between state institutions by so classifying them.

Stressing the importance of democracy for Turkey, Erdoğan said Turkey has been raising the bar in democracy. “Unfortunately, those who are jealous of the level Turkey has reached in terms of democratization, economy and international relations are staging every kind of scenario. There is no way back from this process. Nobody can make this country pay a new price. Nobody has the right to take this country backwards. We have been fighting the problem of [illegal] gangs, which have spread through the country, and we have never surrendered,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan also touched upon the newfound solidarity between relatives of victims of unsolved murders in Turkey’s history. Recently, family members of individuals who were assassinated for political reasons have voiced their demands that the perpetrators and real masterminds behind the killings be brought to justice. Relatives of a number of victims of unsolved, suspicious murders attended the last hearing in the trial of suspects in the murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist fatally shot by an ultranationalist teenager outside the Agos weekly in 2007.

Stating that there is a heartbreaking problem of unsolved murders in Turkey, Erdoğan noted that relatives of these victims are establishing a platform to voice their demands. “They say that they know [their relatives] will not come back, but they want the real perpetrators to be brought to justice. Turkey should immediately confront this responsibility. There are some who say, ‘Why are you dredging up the past?’ Those who are expected to exert efforts to shed light on such events are trying to block this process. I present this inconsistency for the judgment of the nation,” he added.

The First World War still counts
There have been important developments of late in Armenian-Turkish relations. They first need to be put in an historical context.

It all goes back to 1914-18 and its aftermath. Events that took place in the First World War, that awful disaster and yet foundation moment of the modern world, are still at work today.

The Armenians are never going to forgive the massacre of millions of their kind in 1915 at the hands of the Turks, as the Ottoman Empire fell apart. There are perhaps a very few centenariarian stragglers left alive who can attest to it, to this day.

It is a curious, but very telling, fact about human nature, that the Turks are still in denial. They are adamant that that they did nothing wrong in 1915. Hitler put the point in a rather different way in 1938, when he said : 'Who now remembers the Armenian genocide?'

He obviously did; and had a genocide or two on his mind to perpetrate on the sly. It would greatly become the Turks to own up to this business, as it would the British, that they began instituting concentration camps in the Boer War. All peoples have skeletons in their cupboards.

The West: Yes or No?
Turkey is keen to be accepted as part of the Western world. Some 75% of its people, according to opinion polls, deem themselves to be Westerners. The Islamicist party in power, the AKP, is utterly opposed to Muslim extremism of any sort. The Turks wish to become members of the EU, a hallmark of Western identity.

But there are another people, the Armenians, who wish to do so too. As it so happens, they have a prior right to a claim to join, dating back to 300 AD, when they founded the very first Christian state. If the countries adhering to the Treaty of Rome, are not part of Christendom, what else are they?

This is the nub. Turkey's claim to join is based on the fact that 5% of their territory is in Europe, just north of the Bosporus. But, actually, it is more powerfully based on the fact that the founding moment of modern Turkey was the rule of a most remarkable man, Kemal Ataturk (1922-37). He put the Ottoman heritage behind the Turks, drawing on the tradition, nevertheless, of the Young Turks, radical reformers of the Ottoman state before 1914. He secularised and basically Westernised his nation, even converting the script of their mother tongue to a Latin one.
This is the solid reason why the Turks want in as regards the EU. But, alas, too many existing member state’s citizens, particularly in France and Germany, for obvious reasons, do not want them.

Surprisingly Armenia and Turkey have a serious common interest
It turns out that the Turkey's EU membership aspiration may have more parallel lines with Armenian national interests than the sacrifices Turkey has been making for Azerbaijan. Armenia and Turkey are equally interested in the latter's membership in European Union and this common interest can serve as grounds to promote ties and move on with protocol ratification.

The closer Turkey is to EU membership, the more leverage Brussels and other European capitals will have over Ankara. And it is likely to exercised in Armenia's favour. Still this event is bound to be some way away, if it ever happens at all. It certainly won't while President Sarkhozy rules the roost in Paris, nor while Chancellor Angela Merkel does in Berlin.

Sargsyan speaks out
Recently the Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan delivered a keynote speech at the The Armenian high-tech industry Congress (ArmTech) - held from Nov. 5-8, 2009 in Silicon Valley, California - that should have been better covered by the mainstream Turkish and Armenian media than it was done at the time. Today, as Armenia and Turkey are struggling during the difficult process of the Protocol Ratification (solely from Turkey's part), the ideas expressed during that speech are more than ever current and fresh.

The speech can be watched in PM Sargsyan's newly started blog, which has already gained much popularity among the Armenian blogger and the public. There, speaking of Armenia's future development and its place in the world he calls on it to abandon an anti-Turkish approach and in turn to adopt a pro-Armenian mentality. He said the mentality that "whatever is bad for Turkey is good for Armenia" is not the right approach.

The logic is this. The goal of the recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide, which has been at the core of the Armenian Turkish problems, is the recognition by Turkey itself. Turkey will be ready to recognize and condemn the Armenian Genocide if its society is transformed and reformed. EU membership aspirations help to speed up reforms that the Turkish government has initiated. They include more democracy, Kurdish opening, Armenian Protocols, minority rights, the policy of Zero problems with neighbours.

The Armenian Prime Minister says Turkey will recognize the Genocide if it starts respecting the same values and rights upheld in the European Union. The country needs to continue reforms to meet the criteria and the standards. Thus Turkey's desire to become an EU member state is in Armenia's national interest.

"The lesson is the following," said Sargsyan. "We need to retire from the anti-Turkish mentality. We need to have a pro-Armenian mentality. Every thing that is bad for Turkey doesn't mean it is good for Armenia. Today it's very good for Turkey that it becomes an EU member and that is also very good for Armenia. That is coming from our national interest. Therefore, there is no alternative to the dialogue. If Turkey has proclaimed the path of reforms we have to support them and the dialogue is the best way in that regard. The dialogue permits the usage of the potential that has been born during the current Turkish reforms. That is the thousands of Turkish intellectuals that accept the fact of the Armenian Genocide. They call the 1915 events as genocide. That is only possible in today's Turkey because of the latest reforms there," said Sargsyan.

Turkey, on the other hand, has been delaying the ratification of the Protocols tying them with progress on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Those Protocols call for Turkish-Armenian normalization of relations, opening of embassies and developing trade without any reference to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, which Armenia and Azerbaijan have between them. Turkey has closed its border with Armenia making sacrifices for Azerbaijan, with which it has a common cultural heritage. Add to this Azerbaijan's unequal approach toward Turkey and one can see more common interest between Turkish-Armenian national goals than the goals of Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Turkey wants to be an EU member. Turkey feels it deserves the natural gas from Azerbaijan at a much discounted price because of their common heritage and the sacrifices it has made for Azerbaijan in its relations with Armenia. Azerbaijan's goals don't comply much with any of those. When it comes to Turkey's EU membership priority, Azerbaijan's priority is the resolution of the Karabakh problem, expecting to solve it within its territorial integrity. Azerbaijan does not explain how to do this as it has accepted the right of people's self-determination, which will lead to Nagorno-Karabakh's independence.

On its second goal, Azerbaijan wants to maximize its oil and gas revenues. In Davos President Ilham Aliyev said "the price Turkey pays for natural gas imported from Azerbaijan is low and the situation cannot go on like this,” signaling an impending rise in prices, reports Zaman. As one can easily observe, Turkish priorities in regard to EU membership and energy needs do not mesh with those of Azerbaijan.

Yet, Armenia supports Turkish reforms and EU membership. Protocol ratification, if it comes at all will open new horizons in the region and help solve other issues as well. That resolution will create alternative energy routes for Turkey, peace, stability and a better chance for EU membership. Maybe, even the powerful Armenian diaspora would start supporting Turkey's case for EU membership out of its national interest and looking forward to the future.

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