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    Nur Batur: Vignettes from Erdogan's time in New York

    Hürriyet Haber
    15.09.2005 - 10:26 | Son Güncelleme:

    In New York, NY for a summit of United Nations leaders, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan enters his room at the historic Waldorf Astoria Hotel, immediately switching on the television. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and some of PM Erdogan's advisors are also in the room, and they are all surprised at what they see when they turn on the television. There is a live broadcast on Fox News, and US President George W. Bush is talking to Iraqi President Jelal Talabani. Just as 175 world leaders have begun to sweep into New York, Bush is hosting Talabani. And in the White House to boot. In this way, from the moment PM Erdogan sets foot in New York, the subjects of Iraq, PKK terror, and the new leadership in the region come onto the agenda.

    Bush brought the topic up

    Talabani remained on hot topic on the agenda, even at the opening night reception for the world leaders hosted by Bush on the 18th floor of the Waldorf Astoria. PM Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan attended the reception for 300 together. Greeting his guests at the door, Bush brought up the subject of Talabani the moment he saw Erdogan. Taking Erdogan's arm, Bush said to the PM "I spoke with Talabani today. I said to him 'Turkey is worried about the PKK. It would be good if you did something about it.'" In this way, President Bush wound up bringing up the topic of the PKK in Northern Iraq first, although PM Erdogan apparently did not hear the message he had been waiting for.

    "We are aware of the tension resulting from PKK in Iraq"

    Despite frequent reminders from US Charge D'Affaires Nancy Mceldowney in Ankara to the Bush administration about how important the issue of Ocalan is to Turkey, Bush once again has put the PKK ball in the court of Iraqi President Talabani. Responding to PM Erdogan's insistent stressing of how the Kurdish PKK presence in Northern Iraq is a threat to Turkey's inner workings, Bush's response was limited to a "we are aware of that already." It should be interesting to see how much Bush's words to Talabani have had an effect. When Talabani meets tomorrow with Erdogan, what will he say about the PKK in Northern Iraq?

    Reformist leader

    On his first day in New York, PM Erdogan was invited up to the front of the Council on Foreign Relations by President Joan Spiero, who introduced the PM as "The reformist leader from Turkey who is heading up changes in economy and politics." Spiero then hailed Erdogan as a truly international leader.

    Surprising words

    Most of the questions in the meeting room of the Council were about Iraq. How was Turkey going to play a role in protecting the nation? What could the US do to help implement democracy? When the topic came to Islam and democracy, one of the members asked "Will your success in Islamic modernization be an example for other Islamic countries?" And another one asked "We are in awe of the way you in Turkey were able to wed Islam with democracy." Erdogan must have been affected by these questions, in that he answered that the AKP administration was the first to open up to Islamic countries, and in doing so, was able to convince Syria to pull its soldiers out of Lebanon. Erdogan's words here caused some surprise in the meeting hall.

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