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Cengiz Çandar - English

Quo vadis?

23 Mayıs 2009
All these are fine. But Saylan’s funeral was not a normal funeral ceremony. It was a political show. And everyone knows the reason. If the Ergenekon crime gang investigation’s 12th wave of arrests hadn’t involved her, just 35 days before her death, Saylan’s funeral could’ve not turned into a big political show.

Two simple questions here:

1. If Saylan hadn’t been interrogated as part of the 12th wave of arrests, could the funeral ceremony of the 74-year-old president of the Association for Supporting Contemporary Life, or ÇYDD, have been this large?

2. If Saylan had died at a later time, not on May 18, months later for instance, could we have seen such ceremony?

The simple yet honest answer to these questions is obvious. And the answer confirms that Saylan’s funeral ceremony was a big political show against the Ergenekon case.

***

Immediately after the 12th wave of Ergenekon arrests, on Apr. 19, I had completed my article as follows: "As soon as I heard about the detention of Tijen Mergen and of Saylan in the midst of her 70s, first thing that crossed my mind was that a third party was involved in this investigation to stain this case."

And I thought about this piece while I was watching this political show against the Ergenekon case on May 19 as an exploitation of Saylan’s funeral ceremony. The Republican Rally organized in Ankara on May 17, the "Solidarity Walk" attended by well-known figures of the cinema and theater worlds on May 18 from Galatasaray to Taksim in Istanbul, and the court decision from Sincan against President Abdullah Gül concurrentlyÉ

And the "anti-Ergenekon" show during Saylan’s funeral ceremonyÉ

Someone adding all these up said, "The pro-Ergenekon groups are at work." Is it so? I wouldn’t know really. But a "social-political picture" that makes one consider this is self-evident. Daily Taraf’s Ahmet Altan wrote the following the other day: "The rallies are increasing. These masses do not represent the majority but about one-fourth of the population. The Ergenekon partnership, backed by such a big crowd and by legalists, may turn everything into a mess. We might have big massacres and bloodbaths. The only power to prevent this is the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, again. If the AKP speeds up the EU accession bid, takes ’conservatism’ in local municipalities under control, and does not exclude city-dwellers, crowds in the street may withdraw their support for Ergenekon. Otherwise, as far as I see, trouble is approaching. And this time, it is approaching badly."

The most glorious, meaningful and striking of the said rallies was Saylan’s so-called funeral ceremony. Yes, it was not a funeral ceremony. There is a certain style and manner for funerals. But it was not seen in the Teşvikiye Mosque on May 19. What was seen instead?

We saw, instead, wreaths reading "Turkish Armed Forces" on them, which were applauded by the crowd for just this reason. Slogans like, "We are the soldiers of Mustafa Kemal" or "Turkey is secular and will remain secular," and a half-hour long eulogy for Saylan by a "modern" imam who is quite a political figure, the author of a book titled "Religion Politicized, Politics turned out Religion" and who is a former deputy candidate of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, followed by a funeral prayer. The CHP administrative staff; retired Gen. Tuncer Kılınç asking, "Will the state apologize?" towards camera; and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals Sabih Kanadoğlu were in the front of Saylan’s coffin. People who are remembered as being the state themselves asked the question, "Will the state apologize?"

A group of artists who didn’t turn a hair as prominent Turkish authors were accused of belittling Turkey and taken to the court Ğ the artists who failed to show their sensitivities when Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was murdered and who just watched shameful interference to freedom of thought and expression Ğ were this time trying to reflect their "sensitivities" toward the Ergenekon detainees. After a solidarity meeting with pro-Ergenekon groups, these artists were not taking the leading role at the Teşvikiye Mosque during Saylan’s funeral.

On May 19, it was not Saylan’s funeral ceremony but a political show against Turkey’s biggest investigation. Most of the participants were there for quite different reasons or motives, but this still doesn’t justify the "political essence" of the ceremony.

***

Quo vadis?

Where are we heading toward?

Are we really heading into "bloodbaths, massacres and big trouble caused by the Ergenekon that legalists and famous artists support"? Are we really heading into "big trouble" indeed? Similar scenes from 2007 were supported by the strange 367-quorum incident and e-memorandum of the military but all were hit a blow by the July 22 elections. Back then, the presidential election crisis was at issue.

Former elite administrative made a counter-attack following the July 22, 2007, elections and filed for the closure of the AKP. The latest scenes are the rings of resistance exhibited through Ergenekon. But success in an "internal resistance" without an "external conjuncture" support is impossible. There is no "conjuncture" that exists in favor of Ergenekon; in fact, there isn’t any "internal conjuncture" either. The only thing the pro-Ergenekon side relies on is having trump cards if the government makes incredibly bad mistakes.

Otherwise, they have nothing in handÉ
Yazının devamı...

Bad diplomacy

16 Mayıs 2009
Erdoğan surrendered the Caucasus diplomacy, which is way beyond Turkey’s dimensions, to Aliyev’s control. Behind Mr. Prime Minister’s "Baku Show," he took the state with five ministers, if there is no guarantee of the United States and Russia for the solution of the "Karabakh issue" very soon, Erdoğan, through his remarks, sentenced Turkey to diplomatic inertia and the status quo of recent years, which needs to be changed. "Karabakh is a cause. Closing the border gate with Armenia is an effect of the Armenian occupation there. Unless the occupation ends, the border gate will not be opened." Who says this? The prime minister of Turkey says it. I think the real question is who makes the prime minister of Turkey say this.

The border gate’s closing is not directly linked with the Armenian dominance in the Karabakh. The border was closed in 1993 after the Azeri territory in the Karabakh district, a total of five pieces of land and some part of two pieces, was occupied by Armenia.

The Armenian control in Karabakh was achieved in 1992 with the Hocali massacre and the coming down of Şuşa, along with an ethnic cleansing. The border was open then and remained opened. The Karabakh issue’s history dates way back before the border closing. Nagorno Karabakh was an "autonomous region" within the borders of the Azerbaijan Soviet Republic during the Soviets era. According to the 1989 census, 76.9 percent of the population (145,500) consisted of Armenians and 21.5 percent (40,700) of Azeris. In December 1989, Armenia Soviet Republic and Nagarno Karabakh Region Soviet decided reunification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. Now, be careful. It was still the Soviet era. The decision, of course, was rejected by Azerbaijan. In 1988, due to the conflict over Karabakh, both countries were involved in ethnic cleansing, escalating the tension. Azerbaijan declared independence on Aug. 30, 1991. Three days later, on Sept. 2, 1991, Armenia proclaimed independence of the "Upper Karabakh Republic" from Azerbaijan.

The Upper Karabakh issue is more complex than it is assumed. And the surrounding Azeri territory was occupied by the Russian-backed Armenians gradually in order to have trump cards and for military reasons. We’re talking about 7,409 square kilometers of land here, which together with the Upper Karabakh makes 11,722 square kilometers, 13.4 percent of total Azeri land.

In the talks over two years under Swiss brokerage to seek normalization in Turkish-Armenian relations, the Karabakh issue, just like the so-called genocide allegations, was not set as a pre-condition, but "parallelism" looked for between "normalization" and the progress in Karabakh. This implicitly meant re-opening of the border gate between Turkey and Armenia by the time of signing the "Solution Principles in Karabakh" agreement in addition to a timeline for Armenian withdrawal from the Karabakh region set between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Erdoğan conditioned the "end of occupation" in Karabakh to the re-opening of the border gate. Since the final status of Karabakh may take quite long time, Erdoğan’s engagement makes normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations impossible in a foreseeable future. Erdoğan surrendered "diplomatic ropes" of Turkey to the hands of Aliyev. And Aliyev on the other side expressed content for being able to have control over Turkey by saying "Remarks of my dear brother is the most precious answer. There cannot be more open answer."

Aliyev’s father the late president Haydar Aliyev and the Armenian President Robert Kocharian of the period got very close to a solution during the talks held in the Key West of the United States in 2001. Haydar Aliyev’s solution model was a "package" solution. After taking the seat in 2003, his son Ilham Aliyev left his father’s solution route and adopted a "step by step" model. Aliyev met his Armenian counterpart Kocharian five times in the period 2003-2005 and with the current Armenian President Serge Sarkisian three times in the last one year.

From now on, Erdoğan will act at the discretion of Aliyev in order for Turkey to play a role in the Caucasus or in the international community via the Caucasus. This is to Baku’s benefit. Probably the most annoying part of the "Baku Show" was that Turkey showed once again how incapable it is in problem-solving. The Heybeliada (Halki) Seminary issue has been unresolved since 1973. In the Cyprus issue, Turkey left the "dissolution is the best solution" policy 30 years later but then locked itself in the opening of ports issue.

Even re-opening the border gate with Armenia has a slim chance. This is one of the damages caused by the "one nation, two states" demagogy. This is a demagogy because one should ask: Why it is not "one nation, three states"? If the Turkish nation is identical with that of Azeri, 25 percent of Iran and 35 percent of the Iranian capital of Tehran consist of Azeris. More Azeris live in Iran than Azerbaijan.

What about Kurds?

If Kurds have a "nation," then we should talk about "one nation, four states," referring to Turkey-Iraq-Iran-Syria. Or as it was reflected in a press briefing recently, since Turkey and Azerbaijan is a "one nation two states" and Turkey’s "unitary state structure" is beyond question, then is it a bad thing to resolve the Kurdish issue by agreeing with the principle of "two nations, one state"? Anyway, we’ll see how the "diplomacy goal" Erdoğan scored in Turkey’s own goal in Baku.
Yazının devamı...

Political boldness is a ’must’ for solution

14 Mayıs 2009
I had said that Öcalan mentioned the former Finnish president and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Marti Ahtisaari, yet I didn’t recall if he pronounced the name "Türkmen." Yes, Öcalan had mentioned Türkmen too.

The Referans daily is a good guide to follow developments about the Kurdish issue, especially Cevdet Aşkın’s 3-year-old column. In December 2007, Aşkın made the following note:

"Abdullah Öcalan said in a statement to the Fırat news agency on Friday that in the solution of the Kurdish issue an addressee problem is being experienced. ’The dissolution and blockage is a serious issue. I call for all democrats, whom I don’t bother to distinguish as rightist, leftist, to adopt a solid approach against this. Better assessments should be made in the next two months. A wise-men commission should be formed immediately. I don’t say that it should consist of people we choose. This could be a commission of those who were assigned by the state. For instance, İlter Türkmen can be one of them. Why am I using him as an example? Because Türkmen is a man who served the state and knows the state better than us. Arms may be laid down in the frame an outline determined by the wise men.’"

Meaning, if Aşkın had been followed closely, we could’ve realized that this "wise men" issue was introduced by Öcalan himself one and a half years before another PKK leader Murat Karayılan told journalist Hasan Cemal.

But some things are echoed when it is time. Apparently, to talk about the PKK’s laying arms down, coming down from the mountain and the likelihood of seeking solution to the Kurdish issue within this frame is more appropriate in 2009 compared to late 2007.

The other day I again wrote about the Kurdish issue under the title "Signs of optimism" and ended my article by saying "The atmosphere lately is that signs of optimism are more than that of pessimism in finding solution to the Kurdish issue."

If the matter is problems that Turkey has always fail to find solutions, such as the Kurdish or the Cyprus issues or normalization with Armenia, it is possible to become both optimistic and pessimistic at times. But "optimism" is nurtured by "political boldness" in the direction of solution. There is no reason to be suspected about intentions for solution. I wonder if there is political courage or if it is adequately enough. We are not sure. Let’s remain prudent. "Prudential optimism" or "prudential pessimism" means being "realistic" in this particular case.

There was a news story titled "Kurdish intellects as well say ’wise men’" in the Radikal daily the other day. Almost all of the distinguished Kurdish figures who have nothing to do with the PKK say solution initiatives should be made "behind closed doors."

Solution, without doubt, cannot be found "behind closed doors." The frame to build a backbone or a roof for a historic Turkish-Kurdish togetherness symbolizes conciliation of masses. Therefore, finding a solution behind closed doors is naturally impossible."

For the sake of the solution, however, it is necessary to hold "solution initiatives" behind closed doors. As a matter of fact, the subject matter is being discussed in the press and on television. But if political decision-makers or people who would be influential in the decision-making process openly discuss the matter before public audience, this could easily turn into a personal problem and easily clog solution channels. Have you ever seen anything good for Turkey coming out of parliamentary group meetings on Tuesdays?

Turkish political structure is not practical to generate solutions. Main political issues of Turkey are not resolved but they cause clogging. Türkmen, as the wise man of our country, in an interview with daily Milliyet’s Devrim Sevimay two days ago, emphasized this point by relating to "political boldness." "Actually this is the entire problem in Turkey. Government, in fact, sees what it should do but cannot have courage to do. We did the same with the Cyprus issue as well. It happened again in the Armenian issue.

While we are about to do something reasonable and durable, reservations surfaced suddenly and clogging came after," replied Türkmen to a question that for the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, it is something daring to prepare a solution package that may cost votes for the party in the west of the Euphrates River.

Since we are once bitten twice shy, let’s be careful now and not forget that "lack of political boldness" may arise in these days while we have high hopes for steps to take us to possible solution of the Kurdish issue.

Just for this reason, pulling the matter back to behind doors may pave the way for something more beneficial for Turkey.

Let’s remember once again the point we have reached: The reasons driving the PKK to the mountain no longer exist. The PKK looked for shelter in the mountain for a more "separatist" project and to seek Kurdish independence through arms struggle. The organization now declares that they no longer have such goals and all the things they have announced as targets do not require arms struggle. They are doable, applicable. However, the PKK cannot climb down from the mountain. But it should. Conditions should be set to allow this and this is not something that the PKK decides alone.

Therefore though the point we have reached seems a piece of cake compared to the happenings in the past, it is not actually simple and easy. Efforts to end violence may turn into the Myth of Sisyphus in which the Korinthos King Sisyphus was condemned to repeat forever the same task of pushing a rock up a mountain, only to see it roll down again; a story of starting from the scratch and its turning to be an eternal trouble.

But political boldness is above all even if initiatives are made behind closed doors temporarily. Do Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP government have it? Let’s hope they do É
Yazının devamı...

New Turkish foreign policy with Davutoğlu

7 Mayıs 2009
No one has asked me about my opinions regarding the Education or Transportation ministries for instance. But I was asked questions about newly appointed Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

First of all, let me tell you that I was not surprised at all by his appointment even though he is the only minister appointed from outside Parliament. Moreover, as speculations continued for possible changes among ministers, I had said to my close circles that we should expect to see Davutoğlu as the new foreign minister and this would be something quite natural.

During the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Davutoğlu has become a shining star in Turkish foreign politics so much that it is known that he is the "only influential person" over President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Davutoğlu’s "high profile" has always reminded me of the situation between National Security Chief Adviser Henry Kissinger and State Secretary William Rogers of the late U.S. President Richard Nixon’s period in the United States. Eventually, Rogers left his seat to Kissinger. Since then, no one remembers "Rusk," but all know Kissinger.

So Davutoğlu had to be the foreign minister sooner or later, and that has happened.

***

If seeking some kind of parallelism between Davutoğlu and Kissinger, one can say that both have academic backgrounds and both are hooked on "strategy."

In this sense, Davutoğlu in general Ğ with the exception of the late Professor Fuat Köprülü in Turkish tradition, whose area of interest was not international affairs Ğ is an unusual kind.

For this reason, one may want to dwell upon remarks of Deniz Zeyrek, who said, "A name who indulged himself in orchestration behind the curtain but had never had the pleasure of being a decision-maker," that were published the other day in Radikal daily. But if Davutoğlu’s creative personality in finding solutions to issues that are never seen in most of career diplomats is considered, this is enough to say that he will make a successful foreign minister.

Davutoğlu indeed put his mark on every single recent success story of the Erdoğan government in Turkish foreign politics. And he has done it as an "invisible man." Results of what he has done so far, on the other hand, are very visible and have huge repercussions in the international arena.

We better wait and see if he would be have similar results as he sits as foreign minister, but clues that he would be successful are plenty.

Davutoğlu’s bright track record is rather about his performance in the Middle East. That is why Tuesday’s headlines were like "New Direction is the Middle East" for Turkish foreign politics. Starting from this, different views were voiced that the European Union accession process may be harmed as a result.

I know Davutoğlu’s not-renowned times. We attended a few television programs and panels together, and our perspectives had coincided in many subjects.

And in the last year, we attended two panels, one in Austria and the other at Brookings Institute in Washington. The panel was held at the Kreisky Center in Austria. I witnessed that Davutoğlu brilliantly defended the thesis "Turkey may be European in Europe, Middle Eastern in the Middle East and Caucasian in the Caucasus," setting out from Turkey’s unique identity and the Ottoman past.

Meaning?

Well, the meaning is, it may not be correct to think that Davutoğlu’s effective performance in the Middle East may harm the EU process negatively.

However, Davutoğlu should pay special attention to the Middle East, but this should be because it needs to be so. The reason is that the Middle East is the most problematic region in the world, and it is also an area where Turkey can have solid results in a way to be impressive in the international community. Moreover, the Middle East is the region that would be the backbone of Turkish-American relations during the President Barack Obama period in order to build rock-solid relations between Turkey and the U.S. At this point, it is necessary to note Davutoğlu’s "know-how" is a "plus" for Turkey.

***

Although Davutoğlu is known as a "strategist," results of the strategy in his mind are not known yet. I am of the opinion that his being a "really good tactician" is Davutoğlu’s most important and valuable quality. I wouldn’t know how much he is aware of it, but his "tactical moves" in the Middle East have become Turkey’s "gains." Speaking of tactics, he can make mistakes possibly. But what is destructive is a "strategic mistake," not a tactical one. Tactical mistakes can be corrected.

Davutoğlu made tactical mistakes in the Middle East issue. But there were corrected by conditions and himself. A series of tactical mistakes made during and after the Iraq War didn’t seem like a "chain of mistakes" owing to Davutoğlu’s corrections and Turkey’s adaptation to the conditions slowly. On the contrary, the public opinion read them as "Turkey was following the right political path in the Middle East."

What they were, is the subject of another article. However, Davutoğlu’s "zero problems with neighbors" policy is the right one. Besides, Turkey’s "soft power" approach toward the Middle East has increased its role and influence both in the region and the international arena.

In conclusion, it is impossible to say now about Davutoğlu’s performance as an "executive" in the Foreign Ministry and his successes or failures in the area. But as a "mastermind of politics," Foreign Minister Davutoğlu will be quite successful. I have no doubts about that.

I hereby wish him success as the new foreign minister of Turkey.
Yazının devamı...

Does Azerbaijan follow ’one nation-two states’ concept?

23 Nisan 2009
This Tuesday was not an exception. The Azerbaijan-Armenia issue was another topic of polemics. Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal said ongoing Turkey-Armenian talks are the biggest diplomacy mistake of the Republic’s history. He made a call to President Abdullah Gül: "He should go to Baku immediately and meet İlham Aliyev. He should clear-up misunderstandings, if any. Turkey cannot hold back the attention shown to Somali and Bahrain from Azerbaijan."

It is debatable if "Turkey-Armenia talks are the biggest diplomacy mistake of the Republic’s history," but it is surely beyond dispute that Baykal’s remarks were "just a plain example of demagogy." Prime Minister and the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made some remarks on the subject. Since he has not criticized Azerbaijan to date, Erdoğan’s "new" remarks the other day were quite interesting.

"A very sensitive issue for Turkey is being turned into a matter of exploitation. Some people are trying to benefit out of it. Here, the Azeris’ attitude is also wrong. In every meeting we have attended so far, we have backed Azerbaijan. We have considered them more than they can consider themselves. We have never left them alone. People talking here and there are making a mistake. But this will not help anyone," said Erdoğan.

He was right.

***

The latest developments proved that I was right. Azeri President İlham Aliyev, turning his back to Turkey and not participating in the "Alliance of Civilization" forum in Istanbul on April 6, paid a visit to Moscow on April 16-17. The "natural gas" card is one of the most important strategic cards Azerbaijan has in hand.

And Azeris have shown that they could play it against Turkey and the West. Aliyev said in the joint news conference held April 17 with his Russian counterpart Demitry Medvedev that he didn’t see anything wrong with selling Azeri gas to Russia. Experts signal what Aliyev meant by that is the Shahdeniz-2 project with annual 14-16 billion cubic meter gas production capacity may be shifted to Russia. Aliyev also said Azerbaijan may increase the amount of crude oil being sent to the Baku-Novorossisk.

In advance of Aliyev’s Moscow trip, some Azeri commentators and strategy experts said if Turkey doesn’t consider Baku’s interest in Turkey-Armenia normalization talks, Aliyev can take steps to offset the "current geopolitical and economic balances" in the South Caucasus.

Azerbaijan is concerned about the possibility of Turkey lifting economic sanctions over Armenia; in other words opening the land border between Turkey and Armenia, which has been closed since 1993. In fact, Aliyev in his address at the Azeri National Security Council said that they were following possible geopolitical changes in the region and would take necessary measures. He also said Azeris are entitled to exercise their right to determine their own policy in the face of an emerging new condition in the region and that they wouldn’t hesitate to use this right.

A political analyst Rasim Musabekov in Baku stressed that Aliyev was not bluffing and Baku can make a radical turn. Musabekov was also quoted by the Turan News Agency on April 7 as saying Aliyev’s phone call to Medvedev was not a coincidence while U.S. President Barack Obama was in a meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gül. In the meantime, following the Aliyev-Medvedev meeting, the Turan news agency again quoted Nevruz Mammedov of the Azerbaijani presidential foreign policy department as saying selling Azeri natural gas to Russia and Iran may set an alternative to the Nabucco Project backed by the West. And if the countries partnered in Nabucco make no move, Azerbaijan would have left no chance but to consider its own interests.

No one can object any of these. Azerbaijan will surely protect its national interest. Then what is the point behind the "one nation, two states" slogan? If in the eyes of Azerbaijani administrators, the national interests of Azerbaijan do not overlap with those of Turkey, can we defend that Turkey has its own interests but they most certainly should be in line with Azeris’?

***

Turkey has always watched out Azerbaijan’s interests and adjusted its own interests accordingly, even if contradictions existed at times. Gül visited Baku immediately after visiting the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Sept. 6. You cannot count how many times Erdoğan made a trip to Baku and Aliyev to Turkey. That is to say there is nothing for the Azeri administration should necessarily know about Turkey-Armenian rapprochement that is surprising to them.

What happened then?

What happened was that Russia became involved in the equation. Azerbaijan has decided to flirt with Russia in order to make progress in its relations with Armenia.

That is possible. But this doesn’t mean Turkey has made a mistake against Azerbaijan. However, we can surely say the opposite.

It’s been claimed that Aliyev asked Russia to pressure Armenians to evacuate the Armenian-occupied Azeri territory in exchange of transferring Azeri gas to Russia, and this is the reason behind the close-up between Azerbaijan and Russia. If Azerbaijan succeeded at this, however, is doubtful. Russian columnist Rauf Mirkalov of the Zerkalo (Mirror), a Russian daily, wrote, in Karabakh Russia wants a solution completely under its control. Or in other words, Russia asks to have a Russian peace force in the region in dispute. But neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia is ready to accept this. According to Vefa Gülizade, who has been an adviser for many Azeri state heads, unless there is an agreement over the final status of Karabakh, any progress in this issue is unlikely.

Matt Bryza, U.S. representative in the Minsk group, announced that Aliyev and Armenian President Serge Sarkisian are examining this mutually painful agreement in order to make a progress in the Karabakh issue and that the "real" progress would be made a few weeks later, according to Voice of America on April 17.

On May 7, the Aliyev-Sarkisian summit will be held in the Czech capital Prague. Azeri and Armenian state heads will be getting together for the third time in a year. We’ll see the developments afterward.

To follow them without panicking is beneficial. And pressuring Turkey unfairly on the Azeri issue is useless.
Yazının devamı...

Barack Hussein Obama; decent, sensitive, friendly

8 Nisan 2009
To the first question, Obama clearly answered "yes" in Turkish during his Parliament address. "This is my first trip overseas as president of the United States. Some people have asked me if I chose to continue my travels to Ankara and Istanbul to send a message to the world. And my answer is simple: evet Ğ yes," he said.

Yes, indeed. An American president having extraordinary popularity around the world like Obama’s choosing Turkey as his first trip overseas is a message all alone. Besides, this message is so important that even before he stepped in Turkey, Obama said in the European Union Summit held in the capital of Czech Republic, Prague, on April 5 that the United States wants to see Turkey as an EU member and this is an important sign of developing relations between the West and the Islamic world.

Despite French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s objections, Obama repeated his remarks at Turkish Parliament and to the more; he made a strong emphasis on them. After saying that the United States gives strong support to Turkey’s accession to the EU, Obama said, "Turkey is bound to Europe by more than the bridges over the Bosporus, but also through its history, culture, rule of law and democracy."

Mr. President added that Europe brings different nations, ethnic groups and beliefs together and that Turkey’s entry to the EU would reinforce the European stance. He signaled to anti-Turkey groups, in a way, that he, as the leader of the West, would insist on Turkey’s accession to the EU. Given the spirit of all his speeches and remarks as well as the words he chooses, this was both a "political" and a "philosophical" approach, because Obama’s number one priority is a rearrangement of relations between the West, especially the United States, and the Muslim world based not on force, but on a peaceful manner. At this point, Turkey’s special place in Obama’s strategic perspective comes out.

In the eye of the new U.S. administration, Turkey is a "Western" country. But in terms of demographic structure it is a Muslim country. And as far as the geographical situation is concerned, Turkey is a country where the "East meets the West."

Meaning?

The meaning is this: If there would be close-up between the West and the Muslim world as Obama describes, Turkey, at this point, would take a special role. But in order for Turkey to act its role as it is supposed to be, it should be tied with the West. Unless uniting Turkey’s membership in NATO, with the EU membership, it would not be possible for Turkey to become a "positive role model" for the Islamic world as the Obama’s United States imagines. Therefore the United States will continue to really support Turkey’s full membership to the EU. Perhaps this is the most important side of Obama’s Turkey trip.

***

But Turkey has its own responsibilities for such support. It should continue to walk in the direction of reforms, democracy and the rule of law. Obama in his speech at Parliament said on the subject: "You abolished state security courts É You've lifted bans on teaching and broadcasting Kurdish, and the world noted with respect the important signal sent through a new state Kurdish television station. É For democracies cannot be static Ğ they must move forward." Obama also added, "É steps like reopening Halki Seminary will send such an important signal inside Turkey and beyond." He said that the United States has confidence in Turkey on the issue of minorities and freedom of faith. So, he happened to signal what kind of progress they expect of Turkey.

The most striking part of his speech was exactly on the subject. "I say this as the president of a country that not very long ago made it hard for somebody who looks like me to vote, much less be president of the United States," he said. Obama stressed that he has never forgotten and will never forget his African-American heritage and its meaning in terms of democracies and progress. For this reason, his remarks on the 1915 incidents, or the Armenian issue, saying, "É reckoning with the past can help us seize a better future. I know there's strong views in this chamber about the terrible events of 1915," were also critical. Obama, however, stressed that the place to discuss similar issues is Turkish Parliament and that discussing the issue among Turkish and Armenian officials is more important than his own views on the subject.

Obama’s speech was very good. It was an address to all. Therefore it was also built masterfully. But the most striking side of it was that his decency and brilliance was harmonized with the text quite beautifully. Especially as he talked about Muslims’ contributions to the United States, Obama counted himself in as part of the Muslim community living in the United States and claimed his Muslim middle name, Hussein. And it was a sincere sign of his positive approach to the Islamic world.

We’ll digest his speech in Turkish Parliament and discuss for days his various statements. We’ll read the excerpts repeatedly.

His remarks during a joint press conference together with Turkish President Abdullah Gül had important clues about how to shape up Turkey’s future: a model partnershipÉ

***

Yes, we learned a new concept on Tuesday: "model partnership."

Obama talked about a "model partnership" between the United States and Turkey as he emphasized the importance of Turkey not only for the United States but also for the world.

Until today, over 20 years, the "strategic partnership" concept, which it was music to the ear, yet was not entertained deservedly in order to define Turkey-U.S. relations, perhaps for the first time is finding its true meaning with Obama. This will be a model or an exemplary partnership. In the presence of the U.S., Turkey will be perceived as one of the most important countries in the world and will be treated accordingly. So the United States and Turkey are building kind of a "company" together for cooperation and solidarity to resolve world issues.

We are at the beginning of a new period for all. If you ask me to describe Obama in three words as the president of the United States giving a start to this new term, I would say, "He is decent, sensitive and friendly."
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The Kurdistan debate is a ’political boldness’ issue

28 Mart 2009
Do you think your piece will turn null and void?  

This is not important. What is important is that President Gül’s breakthrough is clogged; steps to be taken for the solution of the Kurdish issue are blocked because the word "Kurdistan" is not a debate over semantics. It is directly about finding a political solution to the issue.

I previously gave the results in-depth. It is needless to repeat them here.

This is what I am interested in.

***

After saying, "I did not use such an expression," Gül clarified what actually he meant as follows:

"Inside Iraq there is a regional Kurdish administration in the north of Iraq, according to the Iraqi Constitution. This is what I said. I met their prime minister as well. This is normal.

Various debates occur on such issues. We are dealing with quite difficult matters. So we all should be very careful in the subjects especially as we make progress in struggles with terror, such meaningless and harmful discussions are unnecessary."

That’s fine, Mr. Gül, but don’t you encourage unnecessary discussions the minute you remarked, "I did not say it," although it is normal for you to talk about such matters?

We know that you uttered the expression. How do we know?

We know this through the notes Erdal Şafak of the Sabah daily, Mustafa Karaalioğlu of the Star daily and Murat Yetkin of the Radikal daily took in the plane on our way to Baghdad.

Then, does it mean that they are all wrong?

Besides, your remarks, "According to the Iraqi Constitution, inside Iraq there is a regional Kurdish administration in the north of Iraq. This is what I said," are incorrect.

Why? Because the "Kurdistan region" is uttered in the articles 4, 117 and 141 of the Iraqi constitution. In Article 141, the word "Kurdistan" is repeated three times and there is no expression of "a regional Kurdish administration in the north of Iraq" stated in the article. Only, the "regional Kurdish administration" is used in Article 141.

That is to say, if you want to say what you want to say by referring to the Iraqi constitution, the text reveals that you are talking about the "regional Kurdish administration."

In a country where Kurds couldn’t be called "Kurds" for years or where the word "Kurdistan" couldn’t be pronounced but people were satisfied to say "Kurds" only, you cannot refer to a regional administration as though you are talking about a municipality. So don’t you see that by acting so could in fact mean the continuation of sequestering the "difficult issues" into dissolution?

This is the heart of the matter. Therefore this is not a discussion of semantics or "unnecessary discussions."

***

If nothing else is required for the solution of the Kurdish issue, political "boldness" is certainly necessary. Without "political courage," without showing, or could not showing "political chivalry" to solve this deep multi-dimensional problem and to make any progress in this direction is almost impossible.

The reason is that solution of the Kurdish issue requires the generation of hard-to-digest results, ability to make compromises and the merit to come up with new ideas.

"Political will" only is not enough. "Sine quo none" requires political boldness.

To do all is difficult, quite difficult indeed, but once this is achieved a terrific "award" we all will have.

With the "national consensus" to spread over its influence to the entire region and even to the international community and with self-reconciliation of the Republic inside, Turkey will fly high.

For all these reasons, discussions over "Kurdistan" are necessary. This is not about the semantics at all. For the solution of the Kurdish issue, "political boldness" is vital.
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With Talabani about the PKK’s disarmament...

19 Mart 2009
Talabani met Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday night upon his arrival to Istanbul. The two leaders were together last year in Baghdad as they signed the "strategic cooperation" protocol between Turkey and Iraq. We had returned to Turkey with Erdoğan following a dinner for the Turkish Prime Minister hosted by Talabani.

Let me remind here that Talabani had visited Ankara as the president of Iraq early last year and following this trip the ice has started to thaw between Ankara and the Iraqi Kurds.

Nowadays, top-level bilateral talks involving Talabani seem ordinary. His arrival to Turkey and meetings are so common that almost none is news anymore. The Iraqi president stresses this in his room at Istanbul Swiss Hotel, remembering the days when he secretly visited Ankara with the permission of the late President Turgut Özal.

One of his basic characteristics is loyalty to old friends. The Kurdish president of Iraq has proven this on every visit to Turkey. Talabani has never neglected people who met him in difficult days, on the days he was treated like a "suspect" and people who helped him to make a progress in bilateral relations with Turkey. As it was before, this time again he wanted to meet me, Hasan Cemal, M. Ali Birand and İlnur Çevik. So we met over a lunch.

We talked about everything; the most important one being the disarmament of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

President Gül’s one-week-old remarks that "good things will happen in the upcoming term regarding the Kurdish issue" were understandable enough and caused excitement. After meeting with Erdoğan and Gül, Talabani must have had something to say on the subject.

So he stressed two points in particular:

1. The period is no longer a period of sovereignty struggle. Armed struggle is replaced by methods of politics, diplomacy, mass movements etc., and especially mass communication tools. We are living in a communication age, not living in Mao, Che Guevera and Ho Chi Minh periods. Therefore, there is no ground for the PKK to continue with armed struggle. A big part of the PKK members have begun to see this. Such an understanding gives rise to a new medium for the PKK’s disarmament.

2. In parallel, Kurdish parties of Iran, Syria, Europe and Turkey will probably have a conference in Arbil in late April. or early May and call for the PKK to lay down arms. This meeting is the brainchild of Massoud Barzani and the conference will be held under his initiative and with a "green light" from Turkey.

Talabani says Kurds in Turkey should be patient; the issue will gradually be resolved over time, through "evolutionary" developments and they will provide assistance.

The steps taken in Turkey in the near past are very positive, adds Talabani, giving importance to such steps. The Iraqi president especially refers to the TRT-6 Kurdish broadcasts. "Even a single sentence uttered in Kurdish by a Turkish prime minister was unthinkable in the near past," he says. With the TRT-6, the policy of denying Kurdish existence has come to an end and the point we have arrived today cannot be underestimated, he continues.

One of the clearest evidence of the "rapprochement" between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds is a possible visit by Barzani following the March 29 local elections in Turkey. Talabani is aware of the preparations in this direction and confirms that "Mr. Barzani will soon visit Turkey".

Do Americans or Turkey have a "solution plan for the Kurdish issue" where they also can play a role?

While talking with Talabani you realize that there is no document or study that can be referred as a "plan," but only several guiding principles.

He is optimistic about the approach of the new U.S. administration to the Kurdish issue and to the rapprochement between Turkey and the Iraqi Turks. He knows U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Chief Adviser Gen. James Jones and Ms. Clinton, so he says. Talabani adds that Gen. Jones believes there is no military solution to the Kurdish issue and that the general shared his views with the officials of the Turkish General Staff as he was the chief NATO commander.

I, as a person who has known him for 36 years, can witness the "eternal optimism" as his most unique characteristic. The Iraqi president gives a profile most fitting to his optimism regarding the future of the country. He says people in Baghdad are in the streets and at restaurants until midnight and invites us all to Baghdad.

Talabani said that he met U.S. President Barrack Obama twice in Baghdad before Obama was elected. Over a recent phone call, Obama asked Talabani "If you prepare a dinner table for me as you did last time, I will visit Baghdad and be your guest." Talabani responded "We will prepare a better table." The Iraqi president expresses hope to see Obama in Baghdad in the near future again, following a trip to Turkey for instance.

Let’s go back to the issue of the PKK’s disarmament. The most important development about the solution of the Kurdish issue in Turkey is without doubt will be a step to be taken in this direction. Hasan Cemal asks Talabani "What is the likelihood of this?"

Talabani pausing for a second says "60 percent."

Considering Talabani’s optimism, this is a quite low percentage.

Given that it is not a "fifty-fifty" situation, or even better, if you think that this is higher than 51-49 percent, let’s keep hope aliveÉ
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