Syndicated News from Turkey
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Covered or NotNew York Times (blog)This is not an idle question: While Turkey has a decent record of getting girls through school, it has an appalling record of getting women to work. The rate of female employment was under 30 percent last year, the lowest among all the industrialized ...
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Results 1 - 10 of Headlines for Turkey
Thursday, February 6th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
During a closed-door session on Feb. 5, Turkey’s Parliament granted approval to Washington to upgrade several Turkish military facilities for use in the upcoming war against Iraq. Although the U.S. military already has been given informal permission to base as many as 40,000 troops in Turkey to operate in northern Iraq, the parliament vote was the first formal Turkish commitment to an Iraq campaign.
In taking his case to Parliament, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul made it clear that Turkey had no choice but to back the United States. "All ways for peace have been exhausted. At this point, we have to think of Turkey’s interests," Hurriyet daily reported. However, the closeness of the vote -- 308 to 196 -- shows the deep reluctance within the Turkish government for supporting U.S. war efforts.
The ruling Islamic Justice and Development Party (AK) holds 363 of the Parliament’s 550 seats, and according to Stratfor’s sources in the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), about one-third of the AK’s lawmakers did not support Gul’s position. This means that the measure would not have passed without a substantial number of "yea" votes from the opposition.
The unwillingness of so many ruling party members to support the vote serves notice to several players.
First, it demonstrates to the government that its party’s rank and file cannot be depended upon to support politically unappealing positions. That realization will lead the Turkish leadership to avoid consultations whenever possible with Parliament -- to keep important measures from getting voted down -- despite the large majority the AK holds.
Second, the military will at least dust off its contingency plans for ousting Gul and his Islamic party should the government succumb to its anti-war proclivities. The military considers itself the guardian of Turkey’s secular nature -- going so far as forcing out four other Islamic governments in the past -- and considers U.S. involvement in Turkey a key pillar of that existence.
Third, the vote has whetted the opposition CHP’s appetite for power. The CHP is the party of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey and the man the country’s military holds up as a secular demigod. It was only because of CHP votes that Gul’s proposal passed, but such cooperation might not be sustainable in the future. The opposition’s leadership might well side with dissident AK members to crash the government’s plans.
If that occurs and the AK looks like it cannot corral enough of its members into supporting future cooperation with Washington, the military would feel forced to step in and oust the government to protect both its relationship with the United States and Ataturk’s legacy. In that instance, military cooperation with Ataturk’s civilian CHP would be a natural fit. It would also provide a veneer of civilian participation in the government to help diffuse charges of a military coup that would damage Turkey’s European Union aspirations.
Finally, U.S. strategists must be spooked at the narrowness of the vote. Were this the only vote necessary, it would be a minor concern, but the Feb. 6 Parliament vote only allowed the U.S. military to upgrade Turkish facilities, not occupy them. The vote on stationing rights will come on Feb. 18, and likely will be far more contentious.Results Page:
Tuesday, November 12th, 2002
: RCN Administrator
A 25-member delegation from the CIA and Pentagon -- led by Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin -- arrived in Turkey on Nov. 11 for discussions with military and government officials, Anatolia news agency reported. The meetings followed a weeklong visit to the United States by Turkish military chief Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, who met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Council chief Condoleezza Rice and Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The most recent meetings in Turkey almost certainly focused on Iraq, likely indicating that Washington has yet to secure Turkish support for military action against its southern neighbor. Turkish daily Milliyet reported Nov. 12 that the delegates have discussed the possibility of excluding Peshmergas -- militant factions of northern Iraqi Kurds -- from participating in a U.S. attack.
Washington likely is finding it more difficult than it once thought to secure Turkish cooperation in an attack against Iraq, especially since Ankara sees such action as harmful to its interests. Both the Turkish military and the new Islamic-led government are more concerned about two overriding goals: accelerating the country’s integration with Europe and avoiding a re-emergence of a Kurdish security threat.
Ankara views the potential for an invasion of Iraq and its cooperation in such an operation through those prisms. As a result, barring a clear U.N. Security Council sanction for invasion, Turkish support probably will be both qualified and covert. This could force Washington to limit its military cooperation with Iraq’s northern Kurds.
Turkey’s current political situation and its geopolitical priorities are key to understanding Ankara’s position on Iraq.
A tight U.S.-Turkish relationship was forged during the Cold War, when Turkey relied upon the United States and NATO as its protectors and Washington valued Ankara’s geographical position as a buttress against Soviet ambitions. Although that relationship is still important, it has changed and no longer is the driving force in Turkish geopolitics.
Ankara now sees Europe as the key to its future economic and political security. Achieving EU membership would mean greater economic ties with Europe, more European aid and increased foreign investment. And with its large military, Turkey has the potential to become a powerful player in European affairs, if Paris, Berlin and London give it the opportunity.
Despite its Islamic roots, the newly elected government of the Justice and Development Party (AK) has publicly embraced this European orientation. For instance, party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and party co-founder Abdullah Gul -- who is the leading candidate to become the next prime minister -- have emphasized since the AK’s overwhelming victory early this month that the party’s top policy priority is accelerating the bid for EU membership.
Erdogan is beginning his first post-election trip this week, which will take him to Rome, Athens and Madrid, and he has said he will use the time to press EU leaders to set a date for Turkish membership talks when they meet Dec. 12 in Copenhagen. Erdogan also has been sending positive signals about the possibility of negotiating a framework for the future reunification of Cyprus, which has been divided into Greek and Turkish sections since 1974. Progress on Cyprus would vastly improve Turkey’s relationship with Greece and would remove a major stumbling block to Ankara’s own European ambitions.
Turkish membership in the EU is far from certain, however. Ankara not only must show progress on the technical aspects of its candidacy -- issues such as fiscal and economic stability, protection of human rights and securing democracy -- but it also must prove its value to Europe from a geopolitical standpoint. And now is the perfect time for Turkey to do just that.
In a Nov. 6 interview with The Associated Press, Erdogan was non-committal about allowing the United States to use Turkish bases in any war with Iraq, saying, "The most preferred result is to resolve this issue in peace."
By aligning itself with the prevailing European view on Iraq -- which favors no U.S. military action -- Turkey shows not only its allegiance to Europe, but also its practical, concrete value as a European partner. Simply put, the United States needs Turkey in order to attack Iraq. The harder Ankara makes it for Washington, the more it shows Europe that having Turkey as a dedicated ally will fortify the continent’s ability to counterbalance Washington’s global ambitions.
European leaders this week have suddenly, and notably, changed their tune by voicing more enthusiastic support than usual for Turkey’s potential membership in the EU. After former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who has been tasked with guiding the development of a European constitution, stated Nov. 8 that Turkey would never meet the requirements to be a part of a unified Europe, European leaders have gone out of their way to reassure Ankara.
The French government quickly distanced itself from Giscard d’Estaing’s comments. A government spokesman said Nov. 10 that he did not represent the official position of France, and France’s Europe minister said the same day that the EU was not a "Christian club," and that the EU "has already given its word (to Turkey) and must keep its word."
On Nov. 12, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen criticized Giscard d’Estaing and praised Turkey’s candidacy, reiterating that Ankara would become a full member when it fulfilled the necessary criteria. Such comments are a timely encouragement to the new Turkish government to keep its eye on the European prize, and likely are meant to prod Turkey into maintaining alignment with Europe on the Iraq issue.
The fact that military action against Baghdad is fundamentally not in Turkey’s best interests gives further impetus for Ankara’s position. Adding to the negative economic consequences of a war in its backyard is the fear that in the process of unseating Saddam Hussein, Washington will empower Iraq’s northern Kurds and inspire Turkey’s own Kurdish population to seek independence. Ankara cannot allow the Kurds to become Iraq’s version of the "Northern Alliance."
Ozkan expressed this fear upon his return from the United States, saying, "Formations in northern part of Iraq, which Turkey will oppose, should not be given opportunity," Anatolia reported.
Though Turkey’s leaders might not approve of Hussein, his presence has allowed them to create a fairly favorable situation vis-à-vis the Kurds. Turkey has a strong covert presence in northern Iraq that it uses to suppress Kurdish parties and organizations there that otherwise might inflame the situation in eastern Turkey.
A European orientation and a fear of exacerbating Turkey’s ever-present Kurdish problem are important factors unifying the incoming Islamic-rooted government and the powerful secularist military. This common ground also will be important in guiding Turkey’s decision making on Iraq.
So what does that mean for the United States? If Washington receives a full U.N. Security Council mandate for action, then it probably will be able to count on Turkish backing, as such a mandate would imply support from major European powers. Turkey still will push for and probably will get promises from Washington on limiting Kurdish participation in ousting Hussein, in order to weaken Kurdish claims for autonomy in a post-Saddam Iraq.
However, if Hussein succeeds in his latest tactic to split the coalition and Washington acts without a new U.N. resolution and with limited international support, then Turkey likely will shy away from open support of the war. The United States might be able to rely only on limited Turkish backing -- such as restricted use of bases, but no Turkish troop or other direct involvement -- and only after strong assurances regarding the Kurdish issue.
Either way, Ankara will force Washington to make a choice, and it likely will choose Turkey over the Kurds. And that power to affect Washington will not go unnoticed in Brussels, Berlin or Paris, thus raising Turkey’s stature in Europe.
Thursday, August 22nd, 2002
: RCN Administrator
Kemal Dervis, Turkey’s popular former economy minister, was poised to join the country’s leading pro-secular party yesterday in an attempt to seize power in forthcoming parliamentary elections.
Mr Dervis, who was drafted in from the World Bank last year to sort out Turkey’s worst financial mess since the Second World War, said he would stand under the banner of Deniz Baykal’s Republican People’s Party. He had earlier tried to form a Left-wing alliance. The Islamic-dominated Justice and Development Party has been favourite to win the poll on Nov 3.
Pro-secular Turks and the country’s industrial elite were relieved at Mr Dervis’s move. They see the LSE-trained economist as the only man who can stop the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Istanbul’s former Islamist mayor, and keep Turkey’s still fragile economy on track.
Mr Dervis, 53, who comes from a long line of illustrious pashas, is credited with ramming through a series of radical economic reforms that helped Turkey to secure more than £20 billion of international loans to finance its recovery.
A committed social democrat, admired for his modesty, integrity and hard work, Mr Dervis is a reluctant newcomer to politics and says he would refuse any job other than that of economy minister in a future government.
Close co-operation with Turkey - the only Muslim member of Nato, and Israel’s strongest regional ally - is seen by the West as crucial. The country leads the international peace-keeping force in Afghanistan, a job no other nation wants, and its support would be important in any operation to topple Saddam Hussein.
Thursday, July 11th, 2002
: RCN Administrator
Embattled Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has said that he may consider resignation if his party suffers more defections.
Mr Ecevit was speaking in a live interview on Turkish television, shortly after his former Foreign Minister, Ismail Cem, announced the formation of a rival political party.
Mr Cem is one of seven ministers to have resigned in recent days, as 43 deputies have quit Mr Ecevit’s Democratic Left party (DSP), leaving the governing coalition with a majority of just 15.
Mr Ecevit acknowledged that his government would have to resign if it lost its majority, however he said it would continue to govern as long as it could.
"We have to carry on until the end," he said.
"I am at the helm of my duties at the moment. I have to stay," he said.
Both of the DSP’s partners in the coalition have called for early elections in September or November.
But Mr Ecevit said he hoped he could resolve differences with one of them over policies designed to smooth Turkey’s path towards membership of the European Union.
The Nationalist Action Party (MHP), which is now the largest in parliament, is opposed to easing restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language and abolishing the death penalty.
"If we can find a formula on the EU among the coalition partners... maybe there will be no need for early elections," said Mr Ecevit.
He appointed a close ally Sukru Sina Gurel, seen as a hawkish eurosceptic, as the new foreign minister.
Mr Cem said his new party, formed with Economy Minister Kemal Dervis and former Deputy Prime Minister Husamettin Ozkan, would be committed to social democracy and membership of the European Union.
All three men resigned from Mr Ecevit’s government this week, though Mr Dervis later withdrew his resignation at the behest of President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.
Mr Cem said the Ecevit government was no longer able to carry out the policies necessary for Turkey to make progress.
"The government has distanced (itself) from the ability to govern because of in-fighting. Turkey has reached the point where it cannot take the steps it needs to," Mr Cem said.
His move is seen as a serious new challenge to the 77-year-old prime minister, who has been battling for months against ill health.
Mr Dervis, long a World Bank executive, was brought into the government last year to stabilise the economy and is highly regarded by the financial markets.
On Thursday, the lira had slumped to an all-time low of more than 1.7m to the dollar on reports of his departure, forcing the Central Bank to intervene to support it.
The United States is watching the turmoil closely, concerned about any instability in Turkey - Nato’s only Muslim-majority state and a key regional ally.
Mr Cem is popular in Washington and other European capitals and was credited with thawing Turkish relations with rival Greece.
Correspondents say that at this stage, it remains very unclear what kind of government a snap poll would produce.
Current opinion polls suggest that, were elections held now, the principal winner would be the pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party - but analysts say that could be misleading.
If that party were to win, it would almost certainly upset the secularist army elite and cause serious instability.
As the only Muslim-majority country in Nato, Turkey’s political and economic stability is important to US interests in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, and to any plans the US may have to launch a new attack on Iraq.
Wednesday, July 10th, 2002
: RCN Administrator
Turkey’s foreign minister resigned Thursday, the Anatolia news agency reported, dealing a harsh blow to Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who is struggling to stay in power despite mass resignations from his party.
Foreign Minister Ismail Cem is the seventh Cabinet minister to leave Ecevit’s administration since Monday.
The government has been largely paralyzed since the 77-year-old Ecevit fell ill in May. Since then, he either has been hospitalized or at home recuperating.
Cem told Anatolia in a written statement that he resigned and would give his reasoning in a news conference Friday.
Turkish media have been speculating that Cem could join a new political party led by former Deputy Premier Husamettin Ozkan, who resigned on Monday.
One of the most prominent figures in Ecevit’s party, Cem has served as foreign minister under three different governments since 1997.
He has played a key role in developing Turkey’s ties with the European Union and improving relations with archrival Greece.
His personal friendship with his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, was instrumental in forging closer ties.
The resignation of the foreign minister comes as Turkey has taken over leadership of the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan and Washington is considering military action against Iraq. Turkey borders Iraq and hosted coalition aircraft during the Persian Gulf War.