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03ANKARA4382 2003-07-11 14:07:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ankara
Cable title:  

TURKEY: JULY 11 REACTIONS TO IRAQ INCIDENT

Tags:   PGOV PREL TU 
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1. (U) Summary: sensationalist reporting on the July 4
detentions of Turkish Special Forces (TSF) by U.S. troops
continued to fade in the July 11 Turkish press, with the
incident pushed off the front pages in several major dailies.
Ultra-nationalists, advocating a "reevaluation" of the
bilateral relationship, continue publicly and privately to
use harsh rhetoric in support of military hard-liners, and to
demand a U.S. apology. Nevertheless, despite the rhetoric,
since the return of the detainees to Turkish custody, we have
not seen any steps towards a break in dialogue or diminution
of relations including on commercial military (or
non-military) deals. End summary.




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U.S. Unapologetic, AK "Rational"


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2. (U) The front page of the July 11 mainstream mass daily
"Hurriyet" reports that General Sylvester, during the meeting
of the joint fact-finding commission, acknowledged that the
incident was "not a pleasant one," but added that he was "not
in a position to apologize."


-- "Hurriyet" theorized that General Sylvester decided to go
to northern Iraq only after hearing the reports about the
incident presented by the Turks.


-- Mainstream "Sabah" quotes Lieutenant General Koksal
Karabay, head of the Turkish team, as saying the incident was
"a scandal, no matter what the reason" for the U.S. action.




3. (U) Papers highlighted statements by F.M. Gul and P.M.
Erdogan that were measured.


-- Gul asserted that Turkish forces "were not involved in a
secret mission," and said that the evidence presented by the

SIPDIS
United States thus far was "not persuasive." He added that
there was "no chance" that the TSF were operating "outside of
the chain of command of the Turkish Armed Forces." Gul
claimed that Turkey wants to "work for stability in northern
Iraq." He said that the discussions of the fact-finding team
were proceeding "based on mutual trust," and predicted that
"everything will come out" once the commission has completed
its work.


-- In his monthly television address to the nation July 10,
Erdogan described the government's approach to the incident
as one of "uncompromising realism and determination." He
reiterated his earlier assertion that the incident was
"ugly"; he also lashed out at those who had criticized the
Government for not reacting more forcefully against the USG.
Erdogan asserted that the state administration must act "not
by emotional reaction," but through "determined and rational
steps." On July 11, he also reminded T.V. reporters that the
mil/mil commission had not yet reached any conclusions.




4. (U) Major commentators were generally moderate.
"Hurriyet's" Ferai Tinc, who has frequently criticized U.S.
policies in Iraq, stressed the importance of U.S.-Turkish
coordination and urged the two sides to reestablish trust
between them. Tinc pointed out that a continued lack of
coordination in Iraq,s restructuring will only strengthen
the region,s terrorists. Fehmi Koru, a strong U.S. critic
in the Islam-oriented "Yeni Safak," stressed the need to
restore a "healthy" relationship between Turkey and the
United States. Koru urged F.M. Gul to carry through on his
planned visit to Washington in coming weeks.




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Pro-Military MHP: "Strategic Partnership is Over..."


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5. (C) Vice Chairman for the ultra-nationalist MHP Ercument
Konukman asserted to us July 11 that the alleged treatment of
Turkish soldiers at the hands of U.S. forces was
"unacceptable" and demanded that the USG apologize publicly.
He suggested that the Kurds were beneath the Turks and thus
not fit subjects for U.S. protection. Konukman also strongly
intimated that members of the MHP's "idealist" cadres (note:
the notorious "Ulkuculer") are assisting/working with Turkish
military in n. Iraq. The Turkish military, he said, is
following the same policy in n. Iraq that it has followed for
the last decade; it does not trust the US to protect Turkey's
interests. MHP believes Turkey must "reevaluate" its
relationship with the U.S., he added. "I'm sorry," Konukman
said. "The Strategic Partnership is over."




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...But Commercial Dialogue Unaffected So Far


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6. (C) Despite calls in the press earlier this week for
Turkey to to take firm measures including canceling its
purchase of 4 AWACs planes from Boeing and reports in
yesterday's "Milliyet" that the TGS had been "boycotting"
talks on the purchase of King Cobra attack helicopters since
July 7 (they were, but since the return of Turkish Special
Forces to Turkish custody are now again participating) there
is nothing to suggest a break in dialogue on commercial
military (or non-military) deals.




7. (C) Comment: The military probably is trying as hard as
it can to avoid using these defense contracts as a political
tool since any setback could open up the fenced defense
procurement funds to claims by AK politicians (including the
P.M.) who want the money for social programs. It is worth
also noting that the GOT yesterday proposed holding the next
meeting of the Economic Partnership Commission in October, a
sign that they want to continue dialogue.
PEARSON