1. "Kurds in Turkey `just want their rights'", barefoot children with tattered, crudely sewn clothes are the only "resistance fighters" in this dilapidated Kurdish city, near the border with Iraq, legendary for its armed resistance to an oppressive Turkish rule. To the taste of the government, the town lies too close to the border with Iraq; on the opposite side, the Iraqi Kurds have autonomy - something dreadful to the Turkish government.
2. "Turkey: post-Islamists in power", the belated entry into parliament of Tayyip Erdogan, the AKP leader, coincides with serious problems over Turkey's likely role in the looming war with Iraq. What will happen now to the party in power in parliament? By Wendy Kristiansen for Le Monde diplomatique.
3. "More at stake in northern Iraq", sooner or later, Washington will have to choose between Turkey and the Kurds, says analyst André Gerolymatos.
4. "Sideshow on the Turkish border", behind the increasing strains between the United States and its misbehaving NATO ally, Turkey, lies an inevitable clash between two concepts of governance that punctuates history -- a clash that President Bush ignores at his peril as fighting in Iraq inches toward its climactic days.
5. "Turkey in struggle to deal with Iraq crisis", a government that only four months ago was basking in the limelight and receiving plaudits from the US and Europeans for its reform agenda is now struggling to keep lines open to Washington and Brussels.
6. "Turkey's EU hopes threatened by Iraq war", Europe warned Turkey Monday against sending troops into neighbouring Iraq, saying Ankara's already-embattled bid to join the EU could be further threatened.
1. - Haaretz - "Kurds in Turkey `just want their
Twelve years ago, this now quiet town was the sight of violent bloody clashes between Kurdish guerrilla fighters of the Kurdish Worker's Party (PKK) and Turkish soldiers, resulting in the deaths of dozens of people.
Hence, few were surprised this year when the local governor, who is not of Kurdish origin, decided to prohibit celebrations of the politically sensitive Kurdish festival of Nawrus, which fell a day after the opening of the U.S.-British attack on Iraq. While the Kurds in Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish city in Turkey, were permitted to celebrate and did so in festivities gathering close to 100,000 people, the cities, towns and villages in the border zone were prohibited from marking what could be an ethnic link to war.
"Last year they let us celebrate and this year they won't because there is a war and we are near the border," says a Gizre school teacher who prefers to remain unidentified.
Last Thursday night, the Turkish government passed a motion
in parliament allowing Turkish troops to enter northern Iraq. Turkey
fears both an exodus of Kurdish refugees into Turkey, as well as the
possible creation of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq,
which could encourage Kurds living in Turkey to fight for independence.
"Fire is the symbol of freedom from evil for us, the struggle for our rights," says M., a Kurdish musician and university student. "Until the `90s, the Turkish government didn't acknowledge the Kurdish people and culture or let us speak in our language," says M. He tells the story of a mother who went to visit her son, Kamber Atesh, in a Diyarbakir jail. "She only knew how to say, `How are you,' in Turkish. So she could only say over and over, `Kamber Atesh, how are you?'"
For the 10-12 million Kurdish people living in Turkey (population 63 million), Nawrus has gained added significance because Turkey refuses to recognize Kurds as a minority, insisting the country's largest ethnic group are fully integrated into society, while forbidding expression of Kurdishness, whether it be the celebration of Nawrus or the use of their unique language. Following a military coup in 1980, Kurds were prevented from using the Kurdish language even in unofficial settings. This was later partially lifted in 1991, but it remained illegal to use Kurdish in schools, the media and politics.
It was during those difficult years that Mazlum Dogan, a jailed young activist in the PKK, set himself on fire on Eid Nawrus.
"Mazlum Dogan is a modern Kawa," says M. "His act was a political protest against the Turkish government treatment and rule of Kurds."
Dogan has made the holiday even more politically significant to Kurds. "For me," Dogan is symbolic, he killed himself for our cause," says D., another young Gizre Kurd.
This fear prevented adults from participating in the celebrations. "The children made fires and they [Turkish security forces] put them out and beat them," says a Gizre taxi driver. "The adults, we are afraid."
Throughout the neighborhoods of the city, the small children rolled tires determinedly into the narrow, pitted alleys of the ramshackle neighborhoods or out to the edges of the town. There they quickly lit them as part of the ancient ritual fire celebrations, jumping over the flames for "purification" as the older people watched warily from doorways and balconies.
As if on cue, an armored Turkish jeep with a revolving
machine gun on its roof, rumbled down the road a few minutes later,
scattering the children screaming and running in different directions.
Five security men got out and kicked the burning tire into the puddles,
dousing the flames.
But, his colleague, the policeman, disagreed: "We
must do this, Kurds are bad." None of the five were from the Kurdish-populated
area of Turkey; all had been sent to Gizre for two years' service.
According to R., an 18-year-old from Gizre, the economy is the biggest problem for the Kurdish area of Turkey: "Everyone is leaving here." However, he maintains, racial discrimination is a problem as well. "When the military stop and check buses, they only take down the Kurds and make us wait sometimes for hours," he says. "I don't want a separate country, I just want rights. R. tells of his troubles when celebrating Nawrus with friends: "We lit a fire and about 30 minutes later, a friend told us that police are coming so we ran away. Some people who were just passing by got hit by the police with batons."
The leftist-guerrilla Kurdish Worker's Party (PKK) was formed in 1978, headed by Abdullah Ocalan. In 1984, the PKK staged its first attack, killing Turkish soldiers. Since then until Ocalan's capture in 1999, over 30,000 people, including civilians, have died in the conflict with the Kurds.
"In my opinion, Turkish people and Kurdish people are inseparable," says M. "I don't want autonomy, but if I can watch a movie in English on TV, I want to be able to watch a Kurdish film," continues M. "If I can speak in my own language, live my culture, do my traditional dance, and light my fire, why would I want to separate from Turkey? I just want my rights."
2. - Le Monde diplomatique - "Turkey: post-Islamists in power":
The belated entry into parliament of Tayyip Erdogan, the AKP leader, coincides with serious problems over Turkey's likely role in the looming war with Iraq. What will happen now to the party in power in parliament?
March 2003 / By Wendy Kristiansen *
Gül, with his frank, direct manner, made it very clear that his government sought consensus on both international and domestic issues. But this has not been easy. As the build-up to war with Iraq continues, the government has been under intense, conflicting pressures. The US warned that Turkey risked jeopardising its long-standing relationship with Washington if it failed to approve the stationing of some 62,000 US troops in Turkey to form a northern front in potential hostilities. But the people of Turkey are overwhelmingly opposed to war.
In this dilemma the Turkish government talked tough to the US, and held out for a higher aid package - $32bn, $6bn of it in direct aid - as compensation for eventual compliance; it further decided to put its authorisation of the US presence before the Turkish parliament on 17 February. The deadlock and the talk continued, and the government, resisting US threats, defiantly deferred the vote. On 1 March, in a stunning setback to the US, the motion was rejected, with some 100 members of the ruling party (almost a quarter of AKP deputies) openly defying their leaders.
How much of a problem is this for the AKP? Gül won respect for his handling of the situation, not least from many secular Turks, whose opposition to a party with Islamist connections was once a given (particularly after a 10% fall in the stock market on 3 March). The government echoed Turkish opposition to the war, but recognised the constraints on the country. Gül was seen as a safe pair of hands.
He has now been replaced as prime minister following the electoral victory at a parliamentary re-run at Siirt by the AKP's leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan, a popular and successful mayor of Istanbul, was banned from standing for parliament in the November elections after a prison sentence for "inciting religious hatred".
Will the handover cause a problem between them? It seems unlikely. The problem, highlighted by the 1 March parliamentary reversal, is between them and party hardliners, such as the parliamentary speaker, Bulent Arinc. A cabinet reshuffle could strengthen the hands of the government and bring into line the many AKP deputies who had defied the leaders because of outrage, and even abuse, from their constituents.
The government's struggle with parliament has won it unexpected allies for the time being: the army and the National Security Council (1), known for their distaste for the post-Islamists of the AKP. The military has recently kept a low profile, insisting that decisions over Iraq were the business of the government. But on 5 March the military broke silence. With the government under further intense US pressure, and attempting to organise a second vote, the chief of the general staff, Hilmi Ozkok, made a rare public statement indicating that the army backed the government's attempts to ask parliament a second time to endorse the resolution. Gül welcomed this political support: "It's a good statement" (2). If the vote is won this time, as expected, it will be seen as bowing to the inevitable, mindful of Turkey's material losses in the first Gulf war in 1991, for which it was not compensated, and the million or more refugees expected again from Iraq. Both government and army want to ease restrictions on the use of the $6bn direct US aid, and to ensure a future role for Turkey in northern Iraq.
If the army seems to be acting in concert with the government in the crisis, the AKP faces other challenges from the secular establishment. On Cyprus the AKP actively seeks a settlement but is resisted by the military. On education the government wants to reform the university system (university heads agree that changes are needed) but is blocked by Turkey's higher education council, Yök. Business interests, especially Tüsiad, the secular association that represents big business, criticise the government's handling of the economy. Ali Babacan, the clever, charming 36-year-old minister of state for the economy, rebuts the charge: "The International Monetary Fund is part of our overall programme; but we said in advance that we would defer some parts of the IMF agreement. We need to fight inflation and corruption, reform the tax system and attract private investment to Turkey. We are on track."
The AKP could scarcely look more secure. It has almost two-thirds of the seats in parliament (363 out of 550), only five seats short of the majority needed to amend the constitution single- handed. It is the first party to have a clear majority since 1987; and this is Turkey's first two-party government since 1954. This should be good news. It offers much-needed stability and a chance to address Turkey's many problems -above all economic. The AKP victory was primarily a response to the economic crisis of February 2001, which angered even the middle classes (these are now experiencing unemployment for the first time). It was also a protest against corruption and the political bankruptcy of the old system.
Will the AKP be able to deliver? That is less clear. Despite its success at the polls, 45% of voters remain unrepresented - the AKP won 34% of the votes and the opposition Republican People's party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi) 20%. Voters have been extraordinarily volatile, so the AKP knows that it will need to deliver during this first term in office, especially economically. Even if the current decline of the centrist parties and the shift to the right of voters were to continue, the AKP might not be alone in filling the vacuum: last November Cem Ozan, a 42-year-old businessman, appeared from nowhere, and got surprising support for his far-right Youth party (Genc partisi). Some fear that he could be a nastier, secular alternative to the AKP .
The AKP has learned much from the fate of its Islamist forerunner, the Welfare party (Refah Partisi, RP), which governed Turkey under Necmettin Erbakan for a year until the army forced him to resign on 18 June 1997. Unlike the RP, the AKP has an aggressively pro-European Union policy. It actively seeks a solution in Cyprus (though Gül cautioned that "it is not totally up to us", referring to the hardline views of the military). It has fine-tuned its handling of the Iraq problem, and been pro-active in diplomacy among Arab countries, China, Central Asia and elsewhere. These policies are broadly supported within Turkey.
How does the AKP define itself? Gül says: "We are a conservative, democratic party. We want to implement EU standards; and we are pushing for EU membership. We want to demonstrate that a country with a Muslim majority can be comfortable with the modern world." Was this an oblique reference to religion? "Our link with religion is on an individual basis. It's an essential right, but only one among other rights. We don't want to impose religious rules. And now we're in government our sincerity can be measured." Where does the party stand on secularism? "We want a truly secular system in Turkey, but would like to see it defined in the European sense, with a clear distinction between religion and state, preferably on the Anglo-Saxon model."
There are fears that Tayyip Erdogan has a longterm, undeclared Islamist agenda. What do the charges of Islamism amount to? Erdogan was once the disciple of Erbakan, who, as a product of an earlier, more Kemalist Turkey, reproduced the same statist values (3). His Islamism demanded an Islamic national vision (milli gorush) with Turkey as the leader of the Muslim world. Concrete steps to this, such as calling for Islamic law were banned under the constitution. And now? Rushen Cakir, a writer on Islamic affairs, says: "Erdogan is no longer an Islamist: he's lived the failure of political Islam in Turkey." Taha Akyol, another authority and columnist for the daily Milliyet, explains: "Erdogan and his generation rebelled against the older authoritarian Muslim Kemalists of Erbakan's vintage. They grew up in a Turkey that had grown more progressive. As they gained political experience, they moderated their stand, and gradually were influenced by the free market policies of President Turgut Ozal in the early 1990s. The turning point was an outright rejection of Erbakan's notion of sacred authority and salvation: from then on it was not about salvation but politics." Cuneyt Zapsu is Erdogan's closest adviser, a founding member of AKP and a successful businessman. He says: "Our aim was to create a party on the conservative right, religious but not Islamist. Now we have a problem: the secular establishment is opposing us more vigorously as reformists than it would have if we had been an Islamist party it could easily get rid of." The AKP has cast its net wide: many of its members, as well as its voters, were drawn from other parties; and many were new to politics. They reflect the Anatolian majority, 90% of the population: deeply conservative, traditional, religious. The unreconstructed Islamists, of Erbakan's vintage, are a small minority within the party.
Professor Yilmaz Esmer, a political scientist at Bogazici University, underlines that "the rise in religious values happened in the first half of the 1990s when Ozal was in power; this was accompanied by a strong move to the right, which has continued." He acknowledges that religious concerns are important in Muslim countries, and explains how this translates in contemporary Turkish society: for half the population religion is a matter of private observance; a third see it as part of the communal domain (involving social sanctions); less than a fifth think Islam is applicable to the political level.
Although religious feeling per se has not increased since 1995, social conservatives (with Anatolian roots) have become more vocal, and the symbols of religion are now a public issue. The headcovering for women - known as the turban - is a contentious issue: it is banned in universities and for state employees - lawyers, nurses, doctors and others.
So far the AKP has made no moves on the social front. Women, 10% of both the AKP founding members and its central decision-making board, are demanding reforms , although less vigorously than more militant religious feminists outside the party. Ayse Buhurler, a producer at the religious-oriented television channel Kanal Yedi, and Fatma Bostan Unsal, a political scientist, are both founding members of the AKP. Neither has been in politics before. Neither could stand as parliamentary candidates since they both cover their heads. Both agree that the government must act to remove the ban on scarves, but they accept the need for prioritisation - a word repeated at every level of the AKP. Buhurler says: "The economy and international affairs come first, then human rights - torture, prison conditions, discrimination of every kind - and the turban issue is one of these rights." For Bostan Unsal, "Poverty is the critical issue and the poor are the first priority; after that it's us, the veiled women. Sometimes I think the party isn't courageous enough, it's too anxious for a consensus; but I'll fight with them on this."
The AKP has 13 women parliamentary deputies. Zeinab Karahan Uslu, a lecturer in sociology at Istanbul University (with very visible long hair), does not come from a religious family nor had she been politically active. She joined the party because "change is vital for Turkey: the people want change, and they deserve it. And the AKP is conservative but progressive, it's open to change." And the scarf? "One of the human rights issues which need to be addressed in a democratic system."
But the scarf is not the reason why the AKP came to power. After the economic meltdown of 2001, people believed the AKP would end corruption (the Turkish acronym of the AKP translates as the white party) and defend the poor. The government is torn between expectations - it had increased pensions by 30%, though it has since put that increase on hold because of the likely war - and the need to restore the economy, at risk from war with Iraq.
* Wendy Kristianasen is a journalist.
(1) The National Security Council (Milli Güvenlik Kurulu, MGK) has equal numbers of military and ministers and is presided over by the president of the republic. It is the body through which the army exercises power, seeing itself as the guarantor of the secular republic founded by Ataturk. See "Secular Turks search for reform", Le Monde diplomatique, English language edition, February 1999.
(2) International Herald Tribune, 6 March 2003.
(3) The RP (May 1983-January 1998) was replaced by the Fazilet party (November 1997-January 2002). Fazilet was then replaced by the Saadet party (Islamist, and very marginal), formed on 20 July 2001, and AKP, formed on 14 August 2001. See "New faces of Islam", Le Monde diplomatique, English language edition, July 1997.
3. - The Globe and Mail - "More at stake in northern
24 March 2003 / by André Gerolymatos
Already, the United States has had to endure the frustration of having its invasion plans limited by the unexpected refusal of Turkey's government to allow U.S. troops on its soil. Then it was reduced to dickering over the terms by which Turkish troops might or might not join in the fighting in northern Iraq.
(An early casualty of this bargaining was the recent failure of efforts to reunify Cyprus, an effort that became intertwined with American and Turkish negotiations over the Kurdish issue. Despite indications a deal was done, Turkey's military, it seems, wouldn't part with its control over the northern part of the divided Mediterranean island unless it was promised a piece of the action in northern Iraq.)
During the Cold War, the United States viewed Turkey as critical to protecting NATO's southeastern flank. As such, Washington was willing to sacrifice Cypriot interests, among other things, to satisfy Ankara. Time after time, efforts to reunify the island were abandoned for the sake of U.S. and NATO security concerns.
U.S. deference to Turkey continued with the advance of the war on Iraq. In December, Washington practically bullied the Europeans into giving the Turks a date to begin talks concerning their admission to the European Union. Consequently, the Bush administration was stunned when the Turkish Parliament earlier this month turned down the American request to move 62,000 U.S. troops through Turkey on their way to Iraq. The troops were vital to opening up a northern front against Iraq and protecting their biggest local supporters -- the Kurds.
Nothing in this region, however, comes without a price. When the Americans requested Turkish support in the war against Iraq, the government in Ankara presented two shopping lists to Washington -- one overt and the other confidential. Openly, Ankara demanded $15-billion (U.S.) in direct aid and loan guarantees, a price the Bush administration was willing to pay.
Secretly, however, Ankara also insisted that the Turkish army accompany the U.S. forces into northern Iraq. Furthermore, the Turks demanded the right to establish a military zone in the predominantly Kurdish area.
While wanting Turkish support on the one hand, Washington can't afford to alienate Iraq's Kurds, whose support lends great legitimacy to its attack on Iraq. And the Kurds want no part of a Turkish force in their midst.
Turkey claims its interests in northern Iraq are purely humanitarian. The war will generate hundreds of thousands of refugees, who will seek a safe haven in Turkey. Accordingly, Ankara proposed to use the Turkish army only to stem the flood of refugees by providing aid to the victims of war inside northern Iraq.
Nonsense, say the Kurds, who fear the Turks' real intent in entering their territory would be to suppress Kurdish autonomy. News of Turkey's plans last week generated talk among the Kurds of forming human chains to prevent the movement of Turkish military convoys. Regardless of the advantages of the deployment of U.S. troops in Turkey, or the innocence of Turkish motives, there is a very real possibility that the presence of Turkish units among the predominantly Kurdish population of northern Iraq would result in armed clashes between Turks and the Kurds.
Which is why Washington ultimately balked at Ankara's demands, and Turkey chose not to allow the deployment of U.S. troops. The about-face by the Turkish political and military leadership was less a byproduct of Turkish parliamentary democracy than the result of the failure of the Americans to give the Turks a free hand in northern Iraq.
The haggling continues, even as the war is under way. A U.S. envoy was due to arrive in Ankara today for talks with government leaders and U.S. President George W. Bush said yesterday he had made it very clear to Turkey that its troops were not to enter northern Iraq unilaterally.
Ankara announced Friday that while it would permit U.S. military flights to traverse Turkish airspace, it also reserves the right to send Turkish troops into northern Iraq for Turkey's own security. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul noted that following the 1991 war in the Persian Gulf, "a vacuum was formed in northern Iraq and that vacuum became practically a camp for terrorist activity. This time, we do not want such a vacuum."
The government denied weekend reports, however, that it already has sent in troops.
For its part, Ankara believes it must, at all cost, prevent the creation of a Kurdish state on its border. That policy is driving all others.
Like Syria and Iran, Turkey is home to a large Kurdish population that has ambitions of its own. Ankara neither wants to yield any territory to the creation of a new Kurdish homeland, nor to have to face the possibility of a renewed armed uprising, possibly backed by autonomous Kurds in Iraq.
Undoubtedly, the haggling will go on until the outcome of the war shifts the advantage to the United States or to Turkey, while the fate of the Kurds hangs in the balance.
The United States is betting on a short war, but if the Iraqi army fights back and the conflict drags on, pressure will build to work with Turkey in opening a northern front, whatever the Kurds may think. The Bush administration is less concerned with Kurdish fears or Turkish anxieties than with defeating Saddam Hussein.
Toward this goal, the United States is faced with the exquisite dilemma of whether to placate the Turks or the Kurds.
4. - The Boston Globe - "Sideshow on the Turkish border":
WASHINGTON / 25 March 2003 / by Thomas Oliphant
At one pole is self-determination, the asserted right of like-minded people to create their own society. Imagine 13 long-ago colonies developing a new ideology of freedom to claim independence from an empire.
At the other is sovereignty, the presumed right of a nation to maintain its unity and defend its borders. Imagine 11 states 140 years ago citing self-determination in part to justify secession from that young nation and fomenting civil war. In Iraq, the Bush administration is on a tightrope, trying to fudge the distinction to keep the unavoidable conflict in the realm of politics instead of ruinous violence. Once Saddam Hussein's regime is no more, it is to be replaced by a federation governing the same ''country'' that Britain created more than 80 years ago for imperialist convenience but on a principle recognizing autonomy for Iraq's major ethnic and religious groupings. To be more than charitable, the all-important details of this impending arrangement are nonexistent.
That is why the unfolding situation near Iraq's border with Turkey is so crucial -- less to the outcome of the war than to its aftermath.
At issue is the fate of the Kurds, one of history's most ruthlessly suppressed peoples. For centuries their aspirations for their own state have been brutally put down with massive loss of life -- in recent times not just by Iraq but by Turkey and Iran as well. Very belatedly, after in effect abandoning the Kurds immediately following the first Gulf War, the establishment of the no-fly zone over northern Iraq made possible a dozen years of successful Kurdish autonomy, free of the genocidal policies of Baghdad. To Ankara's credit, US and allied planes that have enforced this protective policy take off and land from Turkish bases.
More recently, however, Turkey has turned menacing and irresponsible as a new, Islamist-dominated government prepares to take over. The contrast between the Kurds and the Turks has been instructive. In the run-up to war, the Kurds early on committed themselves to autonomy within a post-Saddam Iraqi federation and placed their approximately 60,000 fighters clearly under US command. They have operated heroically to assist special forces operations against Iraq as well as against Ansar, a terrorist Taliban-like organization operating near the border with Iran that the Bush administration cites as the link inside Iraq with Al Qaeda.
As the United States prepares to open a third front against Saddam with troops airlifted into Kurdish territory, the Kurds have helped move the Americans into position and helped pick bombing targets in the major northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk as well as in the Ansar stronghold to the east. There is nothing the Kurds haven't done when asked.
By contrast, Turkey began this month with a surprise rejection of an aid-bribe package designed to secure American use of bases to send a mechanized division south to Mosul and Kirkuk and then to Baghdad. More ominous, Turkey dithered with a US request for the right to at least send planes and cruise missiles over its territory. Most ominous, while Turkey has apparently not yet sent significant numbers of troops into Iraq, where clashes with the Kurds would inevitably occur, it has refused to rule out such a threatening move later.
Matters came to a head in a barely publicized incident in the war's first hours last week. A US special forces team operating with Kurds near the village of Girdasur north of Kirkuk got into a firefight with Iraqi soldiers. A request for airstrikes was urgently made, but the response was a life-threatening delay because Turkey was refusing to let the US planes participate in the war from bases there.
At that point, Turkey was in effect shirking its NATO duty and was told so in no uncertain terms. The overflight issue is resolved, but major problems remain. Turkey is getting severe flak from the American right to go with the traditional enmity of the left for its suppression of human rights in general and for its brutality toward the Kurds, not to mention the Greeks on Cyprus.
The next crucial moment is likely to come when US forces take Kirkuk, which controls the immense oil wealth of the Iraqi north country. Over the years of his horrid rule, Saddam systematically stripped the city's Kurds of their rights and property (and murdered tens of thousands) to ''Arabize'' the area; they are about to have the chance to return, and the United States must not prevent this elemental righting of a longstanding wrong.
Turkey must not be allowed to prevent it either. Its traditional claims of concern about refugees streaming toward its border in fear of Saddam are patently bogus now; the real fear is of the impact of successful Kurdish autonomy on the Kurds in Turkey it continues to oppress.
5. - The Financial Times - "Turkey in struggle to deal with Iraq crisis":
BRUSSELS / BERLIN / 25 March 2003 / by Judy Dempsey
and Hugh Williamson
Besieged from both sides of the Atlantic, diplomats say Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government is rapidly losing international support.
Nevertheless, the European Commission is tomorrow expected to unveil a €1bn (£676m) pre-accession aid package to Turkey, starting next year and spread over three years. Turkish officials were unimpressed. "It would be fine for Istanbul," quipped one.
The assistance is at least a signal that the EU remains committed to Turkey's candidature even though the political fallout from Turkey's political miscalculations of the past few weeks continues.
Several EU countries are using those miscalculations as a pretext to keep Turkey outside the EU, said one official, though others such as France were quick to applaud the recent decision by the Turkish parliament to block Washington stationing troops on its territory.
"The problems for Turkey could not come at a worst time," says Peter Schmidt, European expert at Berlin's Stiftung für Wissenschaft und Politik. "The point is that the Iraq crisis has made EU countries really think about the future direction of an enlarged Europe."
The first obvious casualty has been Cyprus. US, United Nations and EU diplomats believed with Ankara's backing the 29-year-old division of the island could have been ended. But Turkey held back, unable to cope with an agenda conditioned by the Iraq crisis.
Günter Verheugen, the EU's enlargement commissioner, said Turkey's reluctance to put pressure on Rauf Denktash, Turkish Cypriot leader, into accepting the amended UN plan would affect Turkey's future membership prospects.
Over at Nato headquarters, just as the dust was settling after a bruising dispute among allies over giving Turkey a defence guarantee in case of attack from Iraq, another arose when Belgium and Germany, the same protagonists in the earlier dispute, threatened to withdraw their personnel from Nato's Awacs early warning aircraft or from their Patriot missile batteries sent to Turkey earlier this month, if Turkey sent troops into northern Iraq.
About one-third of the entire contingent of approximately 1,800 flight, maintenance and security staff attached to the Nato Awacs are German. The main Nato base for the aircraft is near Aachen, western Germany.
But the biggest casualty, so far, has been Ankara's relations with Washington, traditionally extremely close.
The endless haggling to secure a large postwar compensation package for Turkey in return for hosting US troops was too much for the US - and Turkish - public opinion. The US lost its bridgehead, the Turks their package. "All because we exercised out democratic rights and voted against it," said a Turkish diplomat. "There will be more fall-out," said Mr Schmidt. "The US will not quickly forget what Turkey did."
6. - AFP - "Turkey's EU hopes threatened by Iraq war":
BRUSSELS / 24 March 2003
As Turkey stood by plans to deploy troops to stabilize its border with Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, EU officials warned of "extra complications" for its hopes of joining the 15-member bloc. "If Turkish troops cross the border, it would be a very serious act which would contradict a whole series of undertakings by the Turkish government," European Commission President Romano Prodi told the Italian Catholic television Sat 2000.
In Brussels, the European Commission cited the conclusions of an EU summit last week which underlined the EU's commitment to the "territorial integrity" of Iraq. "We call on all countries of the region to refrain from actions that could lead to further instability," said a joint declaration agreed by the deeply-divided EU leaders.
In Ankara Monday a government spokesman said Turkey would
send troops into northern Iraq to deal with the refugee influx and increased
"terrorism." The plans, raising the spectre of Turkey being
sucked into the conflict, have rung alarm bells in Europe, as elsewhere.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the EU
presidency, discussed the matter with Marc Grossman, US Undersecretary
The EU and the US are "equally concerned" about the threat of a Turkish operation, said his spokesman Panos Beglitis, adding that despite "problems and differences they will pursue discussions". At last week's EU summit, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul was present at the EU summit, but made no commitments on troop movements, diplomats said.
In response Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said Saturday that "very strong pressure must be put on Turkey to let it know that taking such action will be a determining factor in refusing it entry to Europe."
"It is unthinkable Turkey should join Europe if it goes into Kurdistan," the minister said. Some are less strident. A German government spokesman said there should be no formal linkage between a Turkish deployment into northern Iraq and its chances of joining the European Union.
"There are also EU members that are taking part in, or supporting, the war against Iraq, as well as candidates to join the EU," government spokesman Bela Anda said Monday in Berlin. There is also some recognition of Ankara's security concerns. "Certain countries understand that Turkey wants to make its borders safe and avoid an uncontrolable influx of refugees by sending a small number of troops into Iraq," said one diplomat.
But most agree that Turkey must tread extremely carefully. "We don't want to see Turkey play a destabilizing role in the region," said another diplomat. The European commission said it was "too early" to come to any conclusions about the impact of the Iraq was on Turkey's EU candidacy. Turkey secured a pledge at a landmark EU summit last December that the EU will decide at the end of 2004 on whether or not to begin membership negotiations with Ankara.
But its hopes have long been clouded by EU demands, notably that it improve its human rights record. Ignoring appeals from European leaders to rein in its troops would hardly impress the EU. The United States and Britain, spearheading the war against Iraq, also both explicity warned Turkey against boosting its military presence in northern Iraq Monday.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair echoed the message Monday. "In relation to Turkey, it would be entirely unacceptable for there to be any incursion," he told parliament in London on Monday. The Turkish plans have also sparked alarm at NATO, where anti-war allies Belgium and German warned at the weekend that could withdraw support for defensive NATO measures for Ankara.
Turkey sought to reassure its NATO allies Monday, in talks between alliance ambassadors. Afterwards officials declined to comment on the Belgian and German threats. "We are continuing our assistance towards Turkey," said a NATO official. "That's what matters, and that's where matters stand," he added.