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Cengiz Çandar - English

What if I tell you

18 Mart 2009
But I couldn’t make the Turkish Cypriot business tycoon Asil Nadir believe this in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In a few conversations, I told him that I am an economy illiterate but he thought that I was pulling his string. He even told that I am quite good in the subject of economy. I know myself. It is impossible for him to make me believe in this. When I told him that my approach has nothing to do with the economy, but psychology, "What you call economy is 80 percent psychology," he defended. It was important for me to hear such an assessment from a successful businessman. I think relying on that "economy is 80 percent psychology," I rarely touched upon the economy here in this column, but of course not without forgetting the fact that, in fact, I am an economy illiterate. The reason was that I sensed an incredible reluctance in Turkey toward the global financial crisis. The crisis did not originate in Turkey, but acting like we will never be affected by that and ignoring the situation is not right, so I wrote. The crisis stemming from the only "super power" state in the unipolar international system had to have global impact. And it did happen. As its effects were felt in Turkey, we began to discuss the issue.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed, "It will bypass us." Nowadays, as we experience the local election campaigns, which have slowly turned into a referendum for the government, discussing the crisis is an issue only if it is needed as part of the campaign trails. A potential standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, is included. Opponents are accusing the government of delaying the IMF agreement. But the pro-government approves the line of Erdoğan against the IMF. In the mean time, whether the crisis will bypass Turkey or it will ruin us is a topic of political polemics. I, as an economy illiterate, am not interested in this side of the matter. I am looking into general political and economic trends, data and theses that I think reasonable.

The unemployment figure of December 2008 was announced the other day as 3,274,000, a total of 838,000 more people being unemployed. The number has increased from 10.6 percent last year to 13.6 percent this year. The unemployment is quite critical especially among young people. It is up from 20.6 percent to 25.7 percent. The relation between the population of young in a country and the unemployment rate gives the clues about social ups and downs, future of the county and therefore how political structure will be shaped up. So it is quite important. For instance, 66 percent of the Iranian population is 30 years old, 50 percent is under 20 and the unemployment rate in Iran stands at 15 percent.

What does it mean? It means new jobs for 800,000 young people every year. In a decade it means new jobs for 10 million youngsters. Ten million is the total population of Greece; it is the total population of Israelis and Palestinians. You go figure the rest and make an evaluation about the trend in Turkey. Starting from this, you can write disaster scenarios for Turkey. But what will we say to the following comment by Süleyman Yaşar, the most striking economy commentator of recent times.

"In the bulletin published by the Treasury Directorate last week, international capital flow to Turkey has increased to $872 million in January 2009, a $22 million increase since last year. Despite the global financial crisis, the increase in direct foreign investment in Turkey indicates the trust that the world has for Turkey."

Yaşar also pointed out the G-20 financial ministers and central bank governors meeting held over the weekend in London. He stressed the decisions taken in the meeting strengthened Turkey’s hand and put an end to the disagreement between the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, and Turkey.The G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting ended with decisions to have recovery plans for economic growth and employment. Turkey supports them. Therefore, as the IMF discussed the magnitude of the prevention package and the budgetary figures, it will have to consider Turkey’s demands for economic growth.

So, can we reach the conclusion that the Erdoğan government in talks with the IMF has won the upper hand despite all criticism? I don’t know because I am an economy illiterate.

What I know is this: U.S. President Barack Obama will be in London on April 2 as part of his first overseas expedition and will participate in the G-20 summit. Turkey will be at the same meeting. The summit will in a way provide political approval to the decisions taken by finance ministers last weekend. The last stop of Obama’s trip will be Turkey.

Meaning? The meaning is if the U.S.-led international system collapses, Turkey will collapse too. Otherwise, Turkey takes the lead in the countries that will never ever be let bankrupt. This is why Obama’s first visit being to Turkey is important. In the meantime, let me not forget that "the U.S. will beat the crisis in 2010," announced the U.S. Federal Reserve, or FED, governor Ben Bernanke the other day.

As it is known, 2010 is at the same time as the deadline for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. In a way, security of Iraq, of the Iraqi Kurdistan actually, will be assigned to Turkey in 2010 É

But let’s go back to economy and continue with Bernanke’s assessment on the current crisis. He said, "Éit is impossible to understand this crisis without reference to the global imbalances in trade and capital flows that began in the latter half of the 1990s... We collectively did not do enough to reduce those imbalancesÉ"

And therefore the crisis loomed.

David Ignatius completes the rest in his article published in the Washington Post:

"The basic imbalance was that the United States consumed far more than it produced. America financed this excess consumption by borrowing money from China and the other rising nations of Asia whose export-led economies were generating huge savings. Both sides became addicted to the flows of trade and capital: America loved gorging on cheap foreign imports; the foreigners loved the rapid growth that came from shoveling goods into the insatiable U.S. market."

The G-20 summit convenes to find a remedy to the situation. Washington seeks for a coordinated global attitude in order not to repeat the imbalances of the past as it was mentioned above. If the Europeans and China agree, it will be easy to rid of this crisis. By looking at the fact that the first leg of Obama’s first overseas expedition is the G-20 Summit to be held in London and the last leg is the Ankara-Istanbul line in Turkey. So I can say the following:

Turkey, as the only "international actor" in Obama’s London-Istanbul line, it is being regarded as one of the "doctors" of the crisis, rather than its victims. In this period, no negative economic data should ruin the confidence felt for Turkey about the future.
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’First round’ or ’pinch headlock’ in Tehran

13 Mart 2009
Those who could not speak in front of him were Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad, Foreign Minister Manucher Mouttaki, Khamenei’s special adviser Ali Akbar Valayati, foreign minister of the Khomeini period.

President Abdullah Gül’s meeting with Khamenei was given the utmost importance by the international community, Washington in particular. The meeting was anxiously awaited and lasted an hour.

From the Turkish delegation only Gül spoke. He told Khamenei what he had told us on the plane on our way to Tehran.

The "message" Gül gave was simple. "A new term has begun with the Obama administration. The new U.S. administration is willing to have contact with Iran. We believe they are sincere. There is a big opportunity that should be appreciated. You, as Iran, should take advantage of it. This will be good for the sake of our region and of all."All right but how did the rehber or Iranians respond?

According to the Turkish side, they carefully listened to Gül. It was clear that they were following the Obama administration’s new initiative. However, they wanted to see more to believe that the U.S. really wants this. The Iranians attitude was "wait and see" in a way.

But it is time to expect a move from both parties. Yet what should we expect from the "wait and see" approach?

As Gül put it and the Turkish delegation voiced, "There is an accumulation of 30 years. This cannot be eliminated in a few days." Meaning, in order to pave the way for Iranian-American relations "care and patience" are necessary. It wouldn’t be realistic to expect a dramatic attempt from Iran until the presidential elections scheduled for June.

President Gül also recalled the "legitimate security concerns" of Iran.

Still, things cannot be left alone. There is a ground for Turkey to conduct an active diplomacy between Iran and the United States, and the timing is right. An official participating in the Gül-Khamenei meeting said: "The Iranian side listened. They did not send the United States any signal or gesture. They did not give us a message to convey to Americans either. Quite obviously, however, the Iranians left the door ajar."

Another high-ranking official, who is very influential in Turkish policy, likened the meeting to the first round of a boxing or wrestling match. Turkey knows and directly sees both parties. The United States and Iran are in the "pinch headlock" position right nowÉ

Gül talks about a new period, new terms, new climate and therefore new opportunities. He proposes the Muslim world and primarily Turkey should catch up to the same wave length as Barack Obama and to turn this into an active asset. However, when it comes to the United States and Iran, things are not easy. No one can say that only the Iranian issue is clear in the new U.S. approach. The United States is still in search of something. In the Obama administration, several different tendencies exist regarding Iran.

Besides, there are power centers both in Iran and the United States that are against having contacts with Iran and vice versa. Similar formations are in the region, too. For instance, it is just a dream to see that Israel wants an Iranian-American rapprochement. Obviously this will be a slow process. Time is the issue because it is necessary to do things quickly at times.

Turkey’s playing a role of "constructive actor" in international politics and especially between the transatlantic and the region is important. In the new term’s window of opportunity we see that Turkey has already taken the stage. Could Turkey mediate between Iran and U.S.? Yes, it could.

There is no other country that could do this better than Turkey and with the mutual consent of both parties. But Turkey’s role goes beyond that. Turkey is an active actor on the international stage. This is more just being a broker.

The atmosphere in Tehran the other day was extremely good. There was not a single cloud in the sky. It was a sunny day filled with the joy of living under clear blue skies.

Nevruz is approaching.

A new year means new hopes. The climate is appropriateÉ
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Obama’s peace vanguard in Tehran

12 Mart 2009
The change in U.S. atmosphere with new President Barack Obama nurtures Gül’s optimism. Mr. President says that a friend of his living in the United States gave him Obama’s books two years ago and said, "Watch out, if he runs for presidency, he would be elected." Gül adds; "At that time, I couldn’t believe that Obama could be elected president. Since I read his books, I knew his thoughts. And now the new U.S. approach overlaps with those I read two years ago."

Turkey and the United States have almost everything in common, according to Gül who believes the new U.S. foreign policy approach brings alone an opportunity to solve many problems as he also believes the "sincerity" of the United States in this new approach.

In this context, Gül gives importance to Obama’s first visit to Turkey for dual talks. As it is known, Obama will stop by first in London for the European Union talks, then in Strasburg for NATO and then in Prague due to the Czech Republic being the EU’s term president.

But he will visit Turkey just for Turkey.

Is it a surprise to hear that the U.S. president will pay a visit to Turkey soon? "No," says Gül, "We knew this before [U.S. State Secretary] Hillary Clinton announced it in Ankara. Washington let us know in advance."

Gül says that Obama’s call after settling in the White House was more than a congratulatory conversation and that they talked about many issues and that he over the phone invited Obama to Turkey. The invitation was reiterated at a later time. Therefore Obama’s quick and positive response to this invitation encourages Gül’s optimism that Turkey will witness positive developments in 2009.

"The climate is suitable," says President Gül regarding the possibility of 2009 being a positive year with normalization in Turkish-Armenian relations, Iranian-American relations, with developments in the Middle East and most importantly with the progress to be achieved in Afghanistan and in the Afghanistan-Pakistan line. The climate is favorable.

"Sometimes it doesn’t happen no matter how hard you try. Conjuncture is not appropriate. If it is, leaders may not be suitable. But this time, the climate is suitable. Since America will launch a different policy approach, everyone should be prepared accordingly. And we don’t have to wait for America. Everyone has to develop his own policies, suggestions in parallel with this new term," continues Gül.

A while ago the Turkish state system had decided to focus on Afghanistan, all related units and institutions of the state have launched studies on Afghanistan, he adds.

President Gül had previously reminded that Afghanistan is the number one issue on the U.S. agenda. As we talk through, he stresses about possible important developments in the Kurdish issue in 2009. When I ask, "Is this about the external dimension of the issue or internal or both?" Gül quickly answers; "Both. The issue has not only had an external dimension. It is multi-dimensional. We have seen where we can go by only focusing on the external dimension of it," as he implies northern Iraq. We leave Tabriz behind, are approaching Tehran É The details of this vital issue are not revealed but in 2009 striking, new and positive developments in the Kurdish issue will not be a surprise. Likewise, normalization in Turkish-Armenian relations is waiting for the "political will." All technical works are complete. The issue is linked to progress in Azerbaijan-Armenia relations as well due to the Karabakh conflict. Apparently, that side of the story is also going well. "However," Gül warns at this point, "You cannot leave this alone. You should get involved and take action."

What should be our deduction here?

It is that the most important meeting of the day will take place between Gül and his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev and that the meeting is directly relevant to normalization in Turkish-Armenian relations and the truce over the Karabakh issue between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Before midnight the other day, the Turkish Foreign Ministry team working on the "Armenian dossier" was heading to the Çankaya Presidential Residence. We were reminded that the "joint declaration" that was announced after Ms. Clinton’s visit to Ankara emphasized a "message" in which the United States asked the inclusion of a sentence like, "both Turkey and Armenia contribute to normalization of bilateral relations and to the efforts of the Minsk Group working on a solution in the Karabakh issue."You may expect critical news from the Caucasus in April. We are in Tehran. The Iranian part of this expedition was talked on the other day.

The question in every body’s mind is, "Will Turkey play a broker between the United States and Iran?" or, "Will Gül convey a message from the United States to Iran?" At the Esteghlal Hotel (the Hilton of the Shakh period) which I had been in many times in the last 30 years, I am reading the Iran News’s headline that Turkey seriously considers mediation between the United States and Iran. The story is based on Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan’s remarks before his departure to Tehran.

President Gül did not make any remark like "We will mediate" but everything he said revealed Turkey would encourage the start of contacts between Iran and the United States as the top agenda item of the international community.

I am writing this piece as Gül meets his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmedinajad. After the meeting, there is another one which we have not been informed in advance. The meeting is with Gül and Ayatollah Khamenei, the "Rehber" (the Great Leader), as the number one decision-making post in Iran.

We know that Gül will tell Khamenei that Iran should use this window of opportunity that is open in the Obama period, suggest to him to participate in the Afghanistan Conference as the United States calls and requests from Khamenei the release of two Iranian-American prisoners, as a "positive gesture" for the future.

We will see the results of Turkey’s role soon.
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Ergenekon Quo Vadis?

5 Mart 2009
The second Ergenekon indictment is given special importance because it is about retired generals such as Şener Eruygur and Hurşit Tolon, who served as force commanders, army commanders and commanders of war academies. It is approximately 1,000 pages. The information that some of the defendants attempted to oust the government through nondemocratic ways and organized Republic rallies in 2007 for the purpose is also included in the second indictment.

As soon as it is revealed, we have a chance to see whether or not the accusations are supported by concrete evidence. Announcement of the indictment has been delayed as questions have aroused about the future course of the Ergenekon case for the reason that no one is sure if the Ergenekon case is a legal payoff against the "military coup attempts."

An Ergenekon lawsuit process not targeting the coup attempts, such as "Moonlight" and the "Gold Coin" in 2003 and 2004, will unavoidably come to a deadlock at some point. Adequate amount of clues about the said military coup attempts are already included in the "Coup Diaries" associated with former Naval Force Commander Adm. Özden Örnek.

We don’t know yet if the "Coup Diaries" are in the second Ergenekon indictment. Will the "Coup Diaries" be a part of any Ergenekon indictment? We don’t know that either.

In the meantime, through "rhythmic" developments all the retired generals who are involved in the case were transferred from the prison in Silivri to the compassionate arms of the military hospitals. And that gives rise to suspicions that Ergenekon will be indeed a payoff time with the military coups.

At the 12th anniversary of the Feb. 28 process, presumably the last successful military coup, a series of activities were organized and the process became the subject of numerous articles. Is there any signal that the perpetrators of Feb. 28 will be taken to the court?

If the Ergenekon case does not take a direction to pursue the "military coup attempts" against the 2000s and against the current government, we cannot find a way for the prosecution of the Feb. 28 process, let alone the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup.

If the door is not closed on the military coups by means of "law and judicial process" but of "political power balances," that is if the Ergenekon does not pursue investigations on the "military coup attempts," having discussions about Feb. 28 and Sept. 12 today makes no sense. And in this case, talking about a "Constitution change" is unrealistic.

We shouldn’t forget that the 1982 Constitution, which stands as an obstacle in front of solutions to many problems and as a source of many questions, is the "product of a military coup." With this constitution, neither Turkey can be a democratic country nor can the rule of law be achieved in Turkey.

And the real obstruction before Turkey’s accession to the European Union is neither French President Nicolas Sarkozy nor his German counterpart Angela Merkel.

As long as the 1982 Constitution exists, there is no need for a "mine" search on Turkey’s way to the EU. Just for this very reasons and evocations, the Ergenekon issue is not an ordinary legal process. If it is not conducted as it should be, it still has to have a "boomerang" effect. And the "Ergenekon boomerang" may blackout Turkey’s future.

What could be the shortest definition of the Ergenekon? Having activities to topple down the elected government, to dysfunction Parliament and to create a coup environment by a military coup d’Žtat, it could be.What could seemingly provide the desired environment for a military coup? An environment of chaos, assassinations, sabotages and social upheavals. The Republic rallies in 2007 were the latter. Regardless of sincere feelings of the participants, the rallies were a tool envisaged by a "scenario" and by the screen writers to have a "military coup." The Ergenekon indictments can be convincing and effective if they are prepared in a way to reveal the "purpose" not only the "means" and if they are supported by concrete evidence.

An Ergenekon process, not including the "Coup Diaries," not pursuing the Feb. 28 process and not combining the Hrant Dink murder case with its own investigation phase, has a risk to be left half-done due to exhaustion.We cannot say that it will be so.But we can wish for not to be so.
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Being aware of the Ergenekon in Arbil

19 Şubat 2009
The two-day conference titled "Searching for Peace and Future Together" ended with a conclusion declaration. I remember just a few meetings where so many renowned and influential Turkish intellectuals participated in, but for the first time so many distinguished people visited this mysterious land which rules the agenda in Turkey quite often. The occasion here, however, was not covered by the Turkish agenda and this is perhaps for the first time.

I think our colleagues who visited the Kurdistan territory in Iraq and colleagues who live there will from now on write articles after sleeping on their impressions for a while. However, most of them were tired of the Kurdish media’s heavy attention. It was possible to see academics giving interviews to Turkish media members or in front of TV cameras in the hall or in the courtyard. Turkish media remained reluctant to the occasion contrary to the Kurdish media.

The Kurdish media is brisk and pluralist although people living in the Iraqi-Kurdish land are extremely calm.

A member of the Kurdish media or an ordinary Iraqi-Kurdish man, all are asking every Turkish man they see why Turkey doesn’t have a consulate general in Arbil.

A similar question is whether or not Arbil will be included in the itinerary of the expected official visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gül to Iraq.

What they are looking for in the answers, without doubt, is if Turkey really recognizes the Kurdish entity, or officially "Kurdistan Regional Administration," or KRA.

Turkey should get used to the name "Kurdistan." This also defines the acceptance criteria for Turkey to project the "Kurdish identity" inside.

Hundreds of Turkish companies running business in the cities of Arbil, Süleymaniye and Dohuk in the KRA. Besides, thousands in southeastern Turkey keep crossing the border. Such powerful humanitarian, economic and commercial ties and the "potential political, economic and cultural relations" require direct representation of the Republic of Turkey in Arbil.

The Turkish general consulate in Mosul is open for three years. But Mosul, an hour outside Arbil by car, is troublesome for security reasons and Turkish citizens stop in Mosul rarely, that’s even incomparable to the Turkish traffic in Arbil.

Turkish Consul General in Mosul Hüseyin Avni Botsalı visited Arbil twice during his three years in office, the second visit for the Abant Platform. When I told him that he is gaining weight, Botsalı said it is 200 meters between the office and home so "inactivity" makes him fat. Owing to a hundred Turkish intellectuals visiting Arbil, the dinner party was I think one of the rare occasions he has outside the house.

Bilateral relations are developing, there is official "close-up" and the Turkish intellectuals in Arbil for the Abant Platform will speed this up and make contributions, it was said in every possible chance.

This, however, is slower than expected.

Turkey has a tremendous potential in the future that even if it cannot valuate, the "environment" is making "pre-emptive" efforts now. For instance, the day before we arrived in Arbil Iranian Foreign Minister Manucher Mouttaki paid a surprise visit to Arbil and Süleymaniye and the Kurdish officials interpret this as a "message to Turkey."

Iran already has general consulates in Arbil and Süleymaniye. Mouttaki’s visit to Arbil after Baghdad is in a way perceived as a message to Turkey; "Don’t be interested in Arbil more than necessary. We are here too."

As it is the case, Turkey’s having a general consulate in Basra, down in the south, after re-opening the Mosul general consulate three years ago and its sliding over and saying, "If God’s willing, in the future.." for the opening of a general consulate in Arbil, is nothing but putting the cart before the horse. Additionally, from the U.S. vice president to the U.S. state secretary to the Iranian foreign minister so many international top figures have already visited Arbil but none of the top-ranking Turkish officials came here. And this is hurting Kurds, putting a distance in between and "nurturing unnecessary doubts."

For this reason, Turkey should immediately open a general consulate in Arbil, as it is stressed in the conclusion statement. President Gül should definitely include Arbil in his Iraq itinerary. I heard the most meaningful Arbil impression from one for organizers of the Abant Platform. While we left the Khanzad Hotel located between Arbil and Selahaddin for the Arbil airport, he told me; "Such a strong togetherness opportunity there is. People are so very warm and willing toward us. I now see that the pro-Ergenekon kept us apart and made us to see this land as the land of the enemy." Perhaps it is unnecessary to relate everything to the Ergenekon crime gang but the "Ergenekon" is surely in everything about Kurds.
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Is it northern Iraq or Kurdistan?

18 Şubat 2009
As a hundred Turkish, Kurdish and some more Iraqi Kurdish intellectuals looked for peace and future in the "Searching for Peace and a Future Together" meeting, this question, although, seems a semantics issue, must have in fact planted in the subconscience a relevance to the future of Turkey in the region and even an impact on it.

The two-day conference held under a heavy attention of the Turkish media, local press, even al Jaziraah TV was also followed by ten thousands or hundreds of thousands in Turkey and Iraq through the live coverage of the Kurdistan TV and a Turkish TV channel. No matter how strong the emphasis of Turkish participants on "togetherness" in the future was, Kurdish attendants realized that intellectuals from Turkey stressed the "northern Iraq" word. This is how the question "Is it Northern Iraq o Kurdistan?" became the central topic in the meeting.

With the awareness of existing "mental blocks" and of internal balances in Turkey, participants from Turkey must have thought that uttering the word "Kurdistan" may trigger unnecessary sensitivities over the issue. Terming a group of people whom their existence was denied for a long time as "Kurds" and seeking a common peaceful future with "Kurds" was overall a critical and valuable step.

Slowly and gradually, it is...

However, preferring "Northern Iraq" over the word "Kurdistan" was perceived by Kurds as the continuation of the denial mentality and policy. We gathered for the "Searching for Peace and a Future Together" conference together with a hundred intellectuals from Turkey and as much that of Iraqi Kurdish. Officials of both parties approved this conference and gave their support.

Where did we meet?

In Arbil.

Where is Arbil?

For many of us, it is a city in Northern Iraq. Official discourse in Turkey has even adopted the expression "north of Iraq" instead of "Northern Iraq". So we were in Northern Iraq or in the north of Iraq.

There is nothing wrong with this geographically. But for Kurds this is the capital of the Northern Iraq Regional Administration, or NIRA. The wording "Northern Iraq Regional Administration" is already in the Iraqi Constitution. Meaning, the locale is a legal entity beyond any geographical and cultural perception.

The most courageous intellectuals from Turkey can utter "Kurdish Regional Administration" but they are having a hard time to say "Kurdistan". There is no problem with "Kurds", yet pronouncing "Kurdistan" is quite difficult. It must have been extremely difficult to make a progress from "Kurd" to "Kurdistan" as the officials go back ward and move from the expression "Northern Iraq" to the "north of Iraq".

Turkish-Kurdish poet Bejan Matur put her mark on the first day of the conference in Arbil with an unforgettable speech both for hearts and minds, titled "Language, Identity, Culture: Common Values".

As she told the story of her grandfather who secretly listened to the radio together with the elderly in the village in the early 1970s, Matur said: "Some people were calling themselves Kurds in a remote country behind the mountains and were struggling for their identity. I felt that my grandfather and the elderly in the village were feeling proud of being Kurd though they didn’t name themselves as oneÉ Just like the radio stations they listened secretly, their emotions were revealing the feeling of being fugitives. For Kurds living in Turkey this is mostly the case. They were trying to live in a country where their identities were not recognized." She expressed the deep and strong ties between Kurds in Turkey and Kurds in Arbil.

This is the connection that most Turks are unaware or that doesn’t make much sense in their world of perception. Still, it is an important connection which is of interest to some.

As for her first arrival to Arbil, Matur said the following:

"Like many other Kurds going to Northern Iraq to pursue the possibility of a country surrounding all of us through a spiritual bond, I was excited too. I am also excited and proud to witness how Kurds self-governing themselves in this land where the word ’Kurdistan’ is being uttered freely. I am interested in the possibility of freedom rather than that of a countryÉ"

After hearing these remarks I thought that uttering the "Kurdistan" word is equal to the freedom of Kurds and that even if the "Northern Iraq" bares no such intention it is still being ignored by "Ankara politics". Matur also made a political analysis over this world of meanings:

"We all witness that Kurds in Turkey were clenched with Kurds in the South by every decision, every word to exclude Kurds in the South. Differences among Kurds were swiftly eliminated as common values were at issue. As Kurds in Turkey are extremely affected by every single word or every implication about their brothers in the South, it was impossible for Turkey to produce a policy against them and it should not be possible. Turkey is on its way to be a country of realities; being a country of a reality imposed by life. As much as Kurds in the South need Turkey for democratization, Turkey needs Kurds in the SouthÉ"

The situation is good because we were looking for peace and future "together" in Arbil!
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What did Israel show? How should we read this?

14 Şubat 2009
So much that the Washington Post used the headline "In Israeli Vote Results, A Setback for Obama" to interpret the significant setback resulted from the polls. In the next day of the bloody scenery in Gaza U.S. President Barack Obama took the seat at the White House and planned to move quickly on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, appointing a "special envoy to the Middle East" on his second day in office, former senator George J. Mitchell. With that, Obama set out the road to start talks for "two-state solution".

The election results in Israel led not-much-willing political actors to take the stage for "two-state solution by way of talks with the Palestinians.

Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. peace negotiator, offered this succinct appraisal of the election result: "This is like hanging a 'closed for the season' sign on any peacemaking for the next year or so." As Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator, said, "Any Israeli government that does not honor past agreements with the Palestinians or "totally freeze all settlement activity, that does not deal seriously with the Arab Peace Initiative and that does not believe in a two-state solution based on 1967 borders, cannot be a partner for peace with the Palestinians."

So who did win the Israeli elections? What kind of a coalition government could be formed?

There two Israelis who claimed to have won the polls and to form the new government. The head of the center-left Kadima Party appeared to eke out a victory and the Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni against the Likud leader Benjamin, "Bibi", Netanyahu. The Kadima was a few points behind the Likud before the elections. But in the elections, Livni held a one-seat lead over the Likud, so she rightfully announced a "victory".

The bloody Gaza offensive seems to have become an effective election campaign tool for the Kadima that won 23 percent of votes against the 22 percent of the Likud. "Tzipi is heading the biggest party, Bibi is heading the biggest bloc, the right-of-center cluster that clearly won more than half of Knesset seats," strikingly said Fania Oz-Salzberger, a senior lecturer at the faculty of law, University of Haifa and the daughter of the renowned author Amos Oz.

Bibi’s Likud doubled the seats and what’s more is that the head of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beituna party Avigdor Lieberman who comes forward with his racist remarks at times also increased the number of seats. Lieberman now holds a "key" position, similar to that of the former Refah Party leader Necmettin Erbakan in the Turkish coalition governments in the 1970s.

In fact, Livni first met Lieberman.There are a few, but specifically two, coalition-scenarios:

1. A right-ultranationalist coalition government under Bibi Netanyahu. Revival of the already dead peace process with the Palestinians is next to impossible with this administration. Netanyahu succeeded to derail the Oslo Peace Process during his prime ministry in the second half of the 1990s.

2. A coalition government based on shared prime ministry between Livni and Netanyahu. The Likud’s leader Yitzak Shamir and the Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin had formed a similar one in the early 1990s. So the head of the Labor Party Ehud Barak or Lieberman may join this team. Formation of such a government depends on the merit of the Israeli President Shimon Peres. With this government, it is really difficult to make a progress in peace talks.

Governments in Israel break down very easily and are formed in most difficult ways. The coalition government referred in the second scenario is more fragile compared to the one in the first. There is another possibility as well. Israel may go for a second tour of elections without delay. After these elections results, formation of a new Israeli government, no matter which scenario works, will take a quite long time. This is for sure. In the face of such election results, The Obama administration’s biggest accomplishment in the first four years will be to keep armed struggles and violence under control. If the U.S administration manages this they will be able to focus on the Afghanistan-Pakistan issue as their number one priority in foreign policy.

If a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian and the Middle East conflict is expected from the Obama administration, this should be in the second term, if he is elected again. That is to say, the first four year of the Obama administration seems to be "having the ball in the middle field".

The final picture of the Israeli elections will disappoint peaceful initiatives and cause chaos and it is not enough to shed a light on the course of the upcoming period. Now, the elections in Iran are of more importance. But we have to wait until June.What will happen if Mohammed Khatemi or Mohammed Baker Khalibaf wins the elections in June rather than Mahmoud Ahmedinajad? In every angle, Ahmedinajad was a name coupling with the former U.S. President George W. Bush. But now there is the Obama administration ready to reach out to Iran and to have a hand-shake if Iran is ready to open its fist. What if an Iranian administration comes out of the ballot-box ready to have dialogue with the U.S.?

A strange picture will emerge in the region indeed. A U.S. that is able to launch talks with Iran which is seen as the number one threat for Israel and a U.S. that will have a "migraine" because of Israel. Such a configuration has seen before. During the Bill Clinton Administration in U.S., reformist Mohammed Khatemi was leading Iran and Netanyahu was the prime minister of Israel.

If the Obama-Hillary Clinton Administration does not repeated the missed opportunities of that period with a similar government in Iran, Netanyahu may unexpectedly take side for peace or may have a very short period if he becomes the Israeli prime minister. And let’s not forget that Israel was established by the Likud Party in 1948 and the wars of 1956, 1967 and 173 occurred under the Likud Party governments. Again the rightist Likud government led by Menahem Begin had made the first peace deal. This is Middle East, a region of the unexpected developments. The main difference between the said periods in the past and the period now is about the leadership quality. In this period both Arab and Israeli leaders lack ability and vision, even incomparable to those in the past. Turkey’s "political chance" here perhaps, yes perhaps, may increase just because of this very same reason.

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From Munich to Baku, with Babacan 360 degrees in foreign politics

11 Şubat 2009
There is nothing at first glance. But if you are the foreign minister of Turkey, if your name is Ali Babacan and if you meet U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, U.S. National Security Chief Adviser Gen. James Jones and super diplomat in charge of Afghanistan-Pakistan relations Richard Holbrooke at the Munich Security Conference in the morning and then if you meet Azerbaijan President İlham Aliyev in the Azeri capital Baku to discuss Turkey-Armenia and Azerbaijan-Armenia relations in the afternoon, yes there is a relation.

Babacan is an extremely modest foreign minister who doesn’t show his qualities very often. If you look at the last half century of Turkey, you see Fatin Rüştü Zorlu, İhsan Sabri Çağlayangil, Turan Güneş, İlter Türkmen, Mesut Yılmaz, Hikmet Çetin and finally Abdullah Gül in the foreign minister seat. And if you compare Babacan with any of them, he may not seem strong enough. But such comparison may also invite a misperception because Babacan, compared to his predecessors, is remarkably active.

He took a significant step in Turkey-Caucasus relations, Turkey-Armenia in particular, and that may raise him to the Turkish foreign policy pantheon among others.

Besides, most of the Turkish foreign ministers in the past did not have a chance to meet even half of the predecessors of the aforementioned names Babacan met in two days in Munich.

This perhaps could be explained by the profile of Turkey getting stronger in the changing world and its pro-active foreign policy. But we should give Babacan credit for his being a modest hard worker. We flew from Munich together and as soon as we landed in Ankara, he rushed to welcome Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin. After a few hours Babacan will fly again to spend the night in Luxemburg and then will come back Ankara to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mobarak who will pay an official visit to Turkish capital today. Babacan will head to Latvia afterwards and then to Moscow. He had to postpone a trip to Lithuania for 10 days due to this hectic diplomacy traffic. Such a dizzying schedule seems to become his way of life.

People who are chronically ill and an opponent of anything may critice him. I think I hear what they say "Constant trips here and there do not mean foreign policy." That’s correct, but as so many countries want to have contacts with Turkey and as their top officials are eager to visit Turkey, we couldn’t say that they are awarding a "country with no foreign policy".

In the near future, Turkey will be at the center of international politics and balances. We have had the hints in Munich. In the short-run, the Caucasus dimension of Turkish foreign policy may give birth to quite striking developments.

This is not originating from my impressions that I had with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammedyarov from whom we heard the course of the Azerbaijan-Armenia relations and the progress they make. This is the conclusion I have reached after learning about the content of Babacan’s meeting with his Armenian counterpart, Edward Nalbandian, twice and with the Armenian President Serge Sarkisian once in Munich.

Let me make a confession here. Mammedyarov is such a straight forward, sincere man that he shared everything about the Azerbaijan-Armenian talks. He answered all of our questions without hesitationt, and without seeking shelter in the "state secret". We were able to squeeze a few words out of Babacan thanks to Mammedyarov. After realizing that we learned quite many things from his Azerbaijani counterpart, Babacan loosened up a bit.

Turkey-Armenia and Azerbaijan-Armenia relations are like two trains that will meet on the same cross at some point. There is progress and this is definitely not slow.

Babacan headed to the Baku Haydar Aliyev airport after meeting İlham Aliyev. We were three journalists on the plane visiting the area covered by Turkish foreign policy. "If you plan to write your memoirs in the future, where will you place the Caucasus among Turkey’s priorities in 2009?" I asked Babacan. He replied in a split second, "In the top five." Then he added, "But it could rise on the list in the next few months."

The first top-level contacts between Turkish diplomats and the Obama administration were held in Munich. At the dinner by the Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber, Biden was sitting on Stoiber’s right and Babacan was on Biden’s right. Estonian President was sitting on Babacan’s right. At the other side of the big round table, there were two more presidents, Hamid Kharzai of Afghanistan and Mikhael Saakashvili of Georgia.

Stoiber didn’t speak English so that helped! Because Biden then turned to his right and talked to Babacan for one and a half hours, especially about the latest developments in the Middle East and Iraq. Babacan in return gave Biden the details of the Turkey-Armenia and Azerbaijan-Armenia talks and the progress made in the Caucasus.

The Turkish foreign minister also met Henry Kissinger to talk about the global strategic issues with a focus on Turkish-American relations. Babacan talked with Gen. Jones about the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and the Iraq issue as he met Holbrooke for the Afghanistan-Pakistan issue.

I met with Jones at the entrance of the Bayerischer Hof Hotel. Jones was still wearing his military jacket with the emblem of the SACEUR, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Jones doesn’t look like an ordinary general. I said: "I think you will have to visit Turkey as part of your new duty." "Certainly," he said, "I, as SACEUR, visited Turkey quite often because it’s a NATO country..."

In the meantime, let me remind you here that Babacan was in Kosovo last week. He met Macedonian Prime Minister Antonio Milososki and Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic in Munich to talk about the Balkans. Babacan came together with the European Union’s next term president Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt at the same panel.

If you are the Foreign Minister of Turkey, in an international meeting you have to make a 360 degree "panoramic tour" on foreign policy in 2009 regardless of the place. You don’t have to run after anyone. Everyone is coming to you.

And yes, they will do so.

The most important thing here is the attitude of the key country in the world, the United States. "All of the American officials I met said: ’We will hear you and consult with you’. And yes they did indeed. Right now, from Afghanistan to the Middle East there is not a crystal-clear U.S. policy. They will listen and consult," Babacan said, then smiled and added: "We’ll see for how long this consultation will continue."

"I hope they will not come four months later and say ’Now you listen’É," I said in return.

Joking aside, they cannot. The limits of a global power were strikingly revealed during the George W. Bush administration so very clearly that the new United States will have to look at most of the global issues in a 360 degree angle and so many American officials will have to visit Turkey.

But of course this is as long as they have addressees who know how to view the world from a 360-degree angleÉ
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