23 August 2006

953) Media Scanner September 2006

The forgotten option: Turkish Eurasianism

Whereas we turn our faces to the West, the Western countries try to extend their influence to Central Asia, the Turks’ fatherland. This region, which has been central to theories of world supremacy throughout history, is known as Eurasia

Turkey, which has been making its future plans according to the prospect of EU membership for 40 years, is now facing the ambiguity of the “open-endedness” that has been offered to, or rather imposed on, us at this stage of the accession negotiations. What does the EU plan for Turkey, while Turkish society seems completely focused on EU affairs and our once untouchable and nonnegotiable red lines have turned pink? Cyprus, which is about to be lost in the same way that Crete was lost, the Aegean Sea, subject to schemes aimed at Turkey's geostrategic pre-eminence in the region and Greek designs on Istanbul together with incessant Armenian demands, which have both received the generous support of the EU, are signposts on a long, narrow and crooked road and warn against the danger awaiting us. The EU, for which we have greatly compromised our identity and national honor, seeks to play an influential role beyond the northeastern border of Turkey. Whereas we turn our faces to the West, the Western countries are trying to extend their influence to Central Asia, the Turks' fatherland. This region, which has been central to theories of world supremacy throughout history, is known as Eurasia. The EU's newly emerged interest in the area is simply based on the existence of abundant energy resources there, but for us, it is the homeland of the Turkish states and the font of all Turkishness.

Where is Eurasia?

It is possible to answer this question in 10 different ways. Answers vary according to one's nationality and historical and political convictions and hence remain relative. Our versions of the definitions of Eurasia are listed below:

It is the vast region that encompasses the entirety of Europe and Asia from Atlantic to Pacific; Lisbon to Vladivostok.

It is the region stretching towards the west and the east of the Ural Mountains.

It is the region that has sheltered the Turkish and Slavic peoples -- Turkish, Mongolian, Slavic, Hungarian and Finnish -- for centuries.

And finally, in its narrowest sense, Eurasia can be defined as the region the Turkish states, in other words, the Turkish world, inhabit.

Eurasianism in the early 20th century:

It was a truism in the 19th century that the power that commanded the oceans has a position much more advantageous than its rivals. From the early 20th century onwards, however, with the advancement in railroads, territorial powers acquired the same degree of mobility as maritime powers. Within this context, the power that had the potential to command Eurasia territorially would emerge superior to the maritime powers. While the latter had to sail miles, at great cost, in order to arrive at the same point, the land powers could reach it with far more ease through the “shortcuts” offered by the railroad.

Therefore, it was common knowledge in the early 20th century that the state which controlled the heart of Eurasia could also control all of Europe and Asia, even Africa to some extent. Although such thinking had a part in the eruption of two world wars, the subsequent advancement of naval-air forces, such as those of the United States, added an extra-region actor to the hegemon of this globalizing world. This fact should be seen as confirmation of what some American strategists suggest, that the control of the center lays in the power of the peripheral states. However, we cannot claim that “he who commands the peripheral states commands Eurasia, he who commands Eurasia determines the world's future” is a perfect statement. Nevertheless, today it is apparent that the United States acts on a strategy based on subordinating the peripheral states of Eurasia with the purpose of preventing Russia from emerging in the region as a global power.

Eurasian strategies during the Cold War:

Even after the dissolution of the U.S.S.R., strategic assessments concerning Eurasia -- no different than those pertaining to the Cold War era -- focus on hindering in the region the supremacy of Russia, the world's second biggest nuclear power, and hence Russian attempts at becoming a world power once again. For this particular reason, the United States demonstrates much interest in the Turkic countries and deploys forces there. It seeks to both stop the spreading of the Russian influence through Eurasia and protect China from Russia. The nuclear assets of China, an eminent nuclear power, do not, in fact, exceed the capacity stored in a single U.S. Trident-type submarine. Therefore, contrary to the common point of view, it is unlikely that China will challenge the United States' global power in the future. Furthermore, Chinese development is hindered by the scarcity of its energy and uranium resources. As China proceeds towards the end of its development strategy, its oil demand is increasing considerably. All in all, it can be argued that the United States, in order to pursue further its Greater Middle East Project, counterbalance Russia and safeguard its abundant investments in China, seeks to settle down in Eurasia. Meanwhile, the pretext that China needs American support in the region serves this U.S. design most conveniently.

‘Eurasian Balkans' -- past empires' encounters:

Over the past 50 years, the role to be played by Eurasia in plans for world supremacy has been assessed by taking into consideration the developments on the three fronts, namely Europe, the Near East and the Far East. Recently, Turkey-Caucasia and the Central Asian Turkic Republics, together called by Brezezinski the “Eurasian Balkans,” have been added to the three fronts. This new front, with its unique underground richness and oil resources, has an immense geostrategic value.

Eurasia has a central place not only in the formation of Turkish identity but also in Russian designs on supremacy. Under the strategic guidance of his consultant Alexander Dugin, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been forcing Turkey out of any plans concerning the future of Eurasia, which is in fact inherently Turkish. The motive behind such an exclusive attitude could possibly be explained by Russia cautious approach to the Turkic Republics in the region and the potential for them to be powerful and unified one day. On this account, Russia has been following the Paris-Berlin-Moscow-Tehran-Tokyo axis in shaping its Eurasian policy. Nevertheless, Putin's latest visit to Turkey and his offer of cooperation and friendly advice to not get so caught up with EU affairs could be read as a sign that Russia may put an end to its attempts to exclude Turkey from Eurasia. Also, Dugin's latest visits to Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) and the speeches he delivered there also signal a change of heart in the Eurasian policies of Russia and thus underpin our argument. Dugin highlighted the vast possibilities of cooperation ranging from economic to strategic, even in Eurasia.

Dugin's theory of Eurasianism bears much resemblance to the Soviet imperialism of the past. First and foremost, it is essentially anti-American. The Putin administration, which has been seeking ways to increase even further its influence in the Central Asia through a kind of neo-imperialism, is also active in the region by means of successful organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Thus Russia enhances its regional existence by strong bonds of economy, culture and politics. However, Putin, who envisages challenging America's design of world supremacy through the Paris-Berlin-Moscow-Tehran-Tokyo axis in accordance with Dugin's viewpoint, has chosen to neglect the Turkishness embedded in the characteristics of the region. The implications of this apparent negligence in Eurasian policy will soon weaken Russia in a region where Turkish elements are dominant and will eventually facilitate the entrance of the United States into Eurasia as an extra-regional but omnipotent actor. Still, Putin's visit to Turkey indicates that a change in this attitude is on the horizon.

Theories based on Turkish-Slavic unification:

There is another theory based on Turkish-Slavic unification proposed by Bagramof that is more realistic than Dugin's theory of Eurasianism. This theory suggests the restoration of the rights of Turkish Muslim minorities and Altinordu in the region.

Within this approach, as orientalist Alexander Kadirbayev emphasized, the ideal of a stronger Eurasia lies in the unification of the Turkish and Slavic peoples. According to Kadirbayev: “Eurasianism is grounded on the steppe and forest, in other words on the unification of the Turkish and Slavic peoples. Expansionism, crossing borders and foundation of mighty states are all results of the steppe culture. This is how the Turkish character was formed. The consciousness of coming from Turan and partaking in Turkish Union has prevented the assimilation of the Turks.” In compliance with the maxim “what makes the Eurasian continent is not the geographical union but the cultural one,” extra-regional actors such as the United States and Germany, encouraged by Russia to be active in the region, are incompatible with this aspect of the region's nature. Therefore, designs built on the existence of outsiders are not realistic. As Kadirbayev held, Soviet imperialism rose on the harmonious coexistence of the Turkish and Slavic cultures. The most important determinant of the Eurasian culture is, however, the Turan (Turkish) element. Still, the third continent situated between Europe (West) and Asia (East), namely Eurasia, stands on the harmony of its Turkish-Muslim and Russian components. The first is represented by Turkey, the latter by Russia. Both countries built empires in the region and had a say in the shaping of Eurasia's future.

The US quest for supremacy in Eurasia:

Against this background, it would not be wrong to suggest that American endeavors such as the Greater Middle East and North African projects are indeed the tools of an American Eurasianism. Today, consequent to a shift in its rationale, the United States seems to ground its strategies in the notion of “land power” and thus aims to extend its support, through land forces deployed in Eurasia, to the Anglo-Saxon naval civilization, which is in fact greatly under American control. The invasion of Afghanistan, acquisition of military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and the obtaining of a military permit for passage to the Central Asian republics could all be perceived as the unfolding of the Eurasianism as Brezezinski prescribed. The next steps in this American version of Eurasianism will probably be Iran and Syria. Despite Russian resistance, American supremacy in Caucasus, which started in Georgia, could continue to grow.

Confirmation of Eurasianist theories, in terms of territorial superiority and power, can be seen in the fact that all the civilizations that advanced to greatness in the region built long-lasting empires. The Roman, Alexander the Great's Macedonian, Genghis Khan's Mongolian, Persian, Russian, Turkish Seljuk and Ottoman empires all illustrate this. Therefore whoever commanded this heartland commanded not only Eurasia but also much of the known world, thus becoming a super power.

Fully aware of this historical fact, the United States aims to keep the peripheral states of Eurasia under its influence and prevent Russia from acquiring global power again. Within this context, by manipulating peripheral states such as Korea and the Philippines in the Far East and Germany and Poland in Europe, the United States strives to hinder Russia's dominance over Eurasia.

For the U.S., which has been trying to be influential in the region since the beginning of 1990s, it is important to preserve the balance of power in Eurasia. Its operations against Afghanistan and Iraq have proven that the U.S. attempts to win the greatest share of the regional resources and that it will, by all possible means, wage a soft war, which is in fact the most efficient way of cultural and social imperialism, on the peoples of the region. The U.S.'s biggest rivals in the region are not only Russia, China, Turkey to a certain degree and Iran, but also Germany and Japan which were both considerable global powers in the past.

It may be stated that the U.S., which today enjoys a unique global power, will establish and maintain a socio-cultural dominance in the region over the coming 10 years through its undeniable advantages in the communication sector. Thus, it will realize its interest of providing another market for its gigantic economy. While Russia benefits from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and thus stands as the most serious rival of the U.S. in Eurasia, China, by virtue of its ever-developing economic power, also seems to have a potential in playing an important rival role. However, on that matter it is not wise to disregard the enduring historical advantages that Russia enjoys especially over other states when it comes to the Central Asian countries. Still, despite the disadvantages of other regional powers such as Turkey and Iran, in the future new initiatives -- to challenge Russia and exercise influence over the region's socio-cultural setting through the rhetoric of geographical proximity and common language and religion -- should be expected by these countries.

Political characteristics of Eurasia:

The fact that the regional powers such as Turkey, Iran, Germany, China and even India will always counterweigh the Russian or American efforts of building up dominance over Eurasia proves that neither Russia nor the U.S. could ever attain an unquestionable superiority in the region. Nevertheless, it will be apt to emphasize the following points, which were also expressed by most of the foremost international strategists numerous times as well:

Presently, neither a single state nor a multitude of countries can drive the U.S. away from the region completely.

Furthermore, the European Union and NATO, which both enlarge eastwards, are likely to serve the U.S.'s interests in Eurasia.

Europe, which will not able to reach to a more consolidated union in the foreseeable future, could in fact, disintegrate and lose its potential power over Eurasia, given the American pressure and influence over the new Eastern Member States.

However, in the case of an unexpected initiative by the EU, Europe's socio-cultural influence over Eurasia might increase.

Then, a supposedly weakening Russia could be systematically assimilated within the global cooperation.

Whereas the German-French alliance could be expected to underpin the American policies in the region, Turkey could be considered as another potential friend of the U.S. As a matter of fact, the Americans, who managed to enter Eurasia only through Turkey in the beginning of 1990s, now wish to establish a dominance of their own. Nevertheless, the American influence is getting weaker and weaker in the Eurasian geography, especially in Central Asia.

In the same way, Turkey, which was a significant actor in the region during the early 1990s, now seems to have lost its prominent position because of the hindering attempts of the Americans, Iranians and Russians.

Therefore, it is clear that none of these countries in the near future can come to the fore as a single dominant power in Eurasia. As an extension to that, engagement in profitable alliances will eventually lead to prominence in the region. Presently, the closest option appears to be the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Russia today sits on an extremely large territory, which requires excessive control beyond the Russian capacity. For that reason, in the near future, it is quite likely that Russia will experience territorial erosion if further challenged in the region by the economically developing China and the U.S., which is currently the most powerful economy in the world. Another theory of disintegration concerning Russia suggests socio-cultural implications. Within this context, Russia's future stability greatly rests on whether the global powers will manage to exercise more influence over the peoples of Eurasia. The “colorful revolutions” taking place in the region, civil society formations and organizations supported by external actors such as Soros may accelerate this process. Russia is left behind in the competition for Eurasia, since it has failed to modernize or enhance itself as China has and this fact will challenge its very own existence in the region.

Turkey, which is increasingly more unwelcome in Europe, should take advantage of what happens in Central Asia and put forward plans for multi-dimensional economic and political cooperation in the long term.

It will be in the best of interests of everyone if Turkey forms alliances with not only the Central Asian countries, but with Iran and Russia as well. For the sake of regional peace, the U.S. should not object to such alliances.

Pakistan will prevent India from entering Eurasia as an important rival power. India will then find itself in a constant struggle with China over the scarce natural resources and pursue more appropriate policies towards Eurasia.

Because Russia has been playing the “energy and natural resources” card as a weapon, the U.S. and Russia have recently been on opposite terms. In the near future, this fact is likely to result in a closer cooperation between the U.S. and China in the Eurasian geography. As an historical reality, unlike the United Kingdom, Russia or Japan, the U.S. has not so far engaged in a “hot” conflict with China. Furthermore, the Americans have abundant investments in that country. Such factors may pave the way to a closer cooperation between the U.S. and China against Russia. Thus, these two parties will increase their share of the opportunities that Eurasia promises.

Turkey's influence on the emerging socio-cultural setting:

All in all, Eurasia is pervaded by multi-dimensional ethnicities, religions, cultures and histories and the future of the Eurasian peoples depends on the convergence and peaceful coexistence of their cultures and identities. External interventions will not only disturb the regional peace, but also they will deepen the existing socio-cultural differences and thus obstruct a possible convergence and unity among the regional peoples.

Turkey, as one of the “historical heirs” of the region, may gain an upper hand, if it can assist the efforts of the Eurasian states in the areas like communication skills, transportation or education. In other words, if Turkey manages to become a “problem-solving country” for the region, its ideology will prevail over other competing ideologies. And thus, Turkey will be the state helping those neighboring and “fraternal states” and their peoples.

Turkey, within the context of the harsh competition created by globalization, has to pursue its common interests, including energy projects, with the countries of the Black Sea, Mediterranean and the Caspian Sea. Therefore, it is imperative that Turkey takes its part in this competition with no delay. Only through a quick but thorough reassessment of the dynamics of the new world order, can our country have a strong say and increase its effectiveness in shaping the Eurasian socio-cultural settings. To this end, being committed to engaging in alliances and efficiently taking all the necessary decisive measures should be our priority on the official level.

In this competition to establish influence over the region, it seems that in the long term the winners will be Turkey, Iran and Russia -- of course only on the condition that they make the most of their geographical advantages and establish a tighter cooperation among themselves.

* Ali Kulebi is the acting president of the National Security Strategies Research Center (TUSAM)

© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc. | turkishdailynews.com.tr

No Turkish government will take any step concerning Armenia without consulting with Azerbaijan

Abdullah Gul government’s FM Yashar Yakish’s exclusive interview to APA’s Turkey bureau.

Dossier: Yashar Yakish was born in Akchakoja district in Turkey. He graduated from Ankara University, faculty of political sciences in 1962 and started working at the Foreign Ministry on the same year. Mr.Yakish worked in Turkish embassies in Lagos, Rome and Aleppo as well as in Turkish permanent representation to NATO in different years. He was appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia in 1988 and then ambassador to Egypt and UN office in Vienna. Yakish was adviser on economic affairs at the Foreign Ministry in 1992-1995 and retired on a pension in 2001. He is one of the founders of the current ruling Justice and Development Party. Yakish was elected parliament member from Duzja in 2002, and was Foreign Minister in the 58th Abdullah Gul government. . .

Now he is the chair of Turkish Grand National Assembly standing commission for European Union relations. Yakish was awarded King Abdulaziz order by Sauddi Arabian government for his contributions to development of Turkey-Saudi Arabia relations.

-How do you assess the current situation regarding the settlement of the Nagorno Garabagh conflict?

- I must say we were dissatisfied with the view appearing after the February meeting between Azerbaijani and Armenian Presidents. International community does not exert pressure on Armenia. If Armenia felt the least pressure of the international community, it would refrain from its position, I think. During the European Union meetings, they claimed we were wrong regarding Turkey-Armenia relationships. We heard the claims such as Turkey should take the initiative, “open the border”. In response to such claims, we stress that Armenia should pull out its troops from the occupied Azerbaijani territories and accept fair peace in Nagorno Garabagh. In addition, Armenia has territorial claims against Turkey-they call Eastern Anatolia “Western Armenia”. We cannot possible establish any relations with Armenia until it refrains from these claims. No government in Turkey will take any step to have relations with Armenia without consulting with Azerbaijan.

-US Congress subcommittee imposed veto on Eximbank to finance the Kars-Akhalkhalak-Tbilisi-Baku railway line project. European Union authorized representative Waldner also declared the EU will not finance this project basing on Armenia’s remaining outside of this project.

-A railway line will connect three countries, and it is up to these three countries to decide weather or not to involve Armenia in the project. Turkey-Armenia border remaining closed is due to Armenia’s policy. On the other hand, the Kars-Ghumru railway is a narrow line, it cannot be used without being repaired. The reconstruction of Akhalkhalak road will spend as much as the reconstruction of Ghumru line. So, Armenia’s claims “there is already a railway” are not true. Secondly, no other country but Armenia is responsible for this road remaining closed.

-Turkey and Azerbaijan have already voiced their views regarding financing of this project…

- As Azerbaijan’s oil revenues are increasing, both Baku and Ankara can allocate $350 million to the construction of the railway line. I think, Georgia’s participation in financing is not so necessary in current situation. On the other hand, the United States and European Union would not allow interest-free loan to us.

-Resigned US Army Colonel Peters has drawn a new map of the Middle East. Though the map shows united Azerbaijan, the important city Tabriz is shown as the territory of “Kurdustan”.

-It is incredible. This map is absolutely wrong. I received an American delegation. When I touched on map issue, I was told it is author’s opinion. And I asked such a question, “I write an article saying Armenia causes a lot of problems to the Caucasus region. So it should be removed. Would the “Armed forces Journal” publish it?” they said “No”. So, I asked, “You told everyone can publish everything it likes on the journal”. Such things are disgusting. Division of many countries into artificial borders is not acceptable. Several years ago, when Iran proposed to give Mecca and Medina the status of “Holy land”, Saudi Arabia’s reaction was severe to this proposal. The above-mentioned map shows Kurdustan’s border lying till the Black Sea coast, including Artvin and Hopa. There is no single Kurd living in these territories while the map shows these as Kurdustan’s territory. Even, Tabriz-center of South Azerbaijan is given to Kurdustan in the map. How many Kurds are there in Tabriz?

- The US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group has been substituted. However, there are attempts to exert pressure on Azerbaijan. Do you think the Minsk Group is established for the purpose of making Azerbaijan make trade-offs?

-I think the Minsk Group aims to calm down emotions, distract the attention of the world community from this problem and put forward unacceptable proposals in the end. No more vital thing can I imagine compared to the return of displaced Azerbaijanis to their occupied homelands in Nagorno Garabagh. The attempts to part Nagorno Garabagh from Azerbaijan are doomed to failure. The international law says the same. Regrettably, when Armenians intend to occupy land from Azerbaijan, international organizations ignore their decisions.

-As an experienced diplomat and former Foreign Minister, how can you explain Armenia’s incompliance with the decisions of international organizations?

- Armenia has a strong lobby in the West, in particular in US and France. They are establishing relations with rich men in other countries and influence them. Azerbaijan is also developing economically. Though these problems cannot be solved today, everyone can easily imagine the way of solution in future. Azerbaijan should never say “yes I agree to such trade-offs”. Because, time is going for Azerbaijan, which is developing its economy.

-The European Parliament has many times called for Turkey to open the border with Armenia and recognize the so-called “Armenian genocide”. Do you think in the process of EU membership discussions, Turkey will have to take this step? There are no such items in Copenhagen political principles…

-I began to consider this issue as a joke. The discussions on Turkey’s EU membership consist of concrete paragraphs. For instance, while discussing in what standard a cucumber should be in agriculture in European Union, “Turkey cannot say it cannot discuss standard of cucumber without recognizing the genocide.” Because, these are quite different issues. Copenhagen principles do not have any paragraph that stresses the importance of our recognizing Armenia. We regard these appeals as the European Union’s consoling itself with.


10 Aug. 2006

Freedom of expression in Turkey, freedom of expression in Holland

These days Turkey is busily discussing Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. While the major party in opposition disappointingly resists any attempts to change this law and the government tries to navigate a nifty solution that will ideally satisfy both the voters and the EU top officials, Turkey's columnists left and right are industriously probing the implications of the article and making suggestions as to what to replace it with. Although the number of people complaining about the harmful effects of Article 301 has visibly increased, among the cultural, political and military elite, there are also those who claim that this article needs to be left intact to discipline and penalize any potential “traitors.”

Being put on trial under Article 301, I do know firsthand how perilous and restraining the vagueness of the article can be and I strongly believe it needs to be changed and improved as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Until today this infamous article had been used many a times to sue numerous critical-minded people, -- among them publishers, journalists, editors, writers -- but now, in addition to this sequence, a work of fiction was being brought to court. I was indicted for denigrating “Turkishness” in my latest novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, which tells the story of two families -- one Turkish-Muslim, living in Istanbul and the other Armenian-American, living in San Francisco. Three months after the book came out in Turkey, I have been sued by a group of ultra-nationalist lawyers who apparently had plucked the words of a number of Armenian characters present in the novel and claimed that I was maligning Turkishness through the words of my fictional characters. A well-known progressive newspaper, Radikal, countered by asking: “Are we going to be the type of country where fictional characters are prosecuted?”

To this day, I do not know what exactly “belittling Turkishness” means. But I do know what it means to dream, to imagine, to speak your mind, to write fiction and to empathize with the “Other” until there is no “us versus them” anymore. I believe in the freedom of expression. Not solely in Turkey but everywhere and at all times. This is why it is impossible for me not to become worried by the recent developments in Holland and by the mood in France. The news that three Turkish candidates have been expelled from their parties in Holland due to their refusal to accept “Armenian genocide” is very distressing. By the same token, the attempts in France to introduce and impose “a genocide law” and punish anyone who denies this understanding is completely against the spirit of freedom of expression and against the spirit of an open democracy.

If we are pro-freedom of expression in Turkey, we cannot have double standards. Being pro-freedom of expression requires defending this fundamental principle in all countries. What is happening in Holland and France is highly problematical not only in terms of curbing freedom of expression but also in terms of undermining any potential bonds of empathy and amity between Armenians and Turks. This move will only create a nationalist backlash in Turkey. It will harm all attempts to build dialogue. Perhaps more significantly, both the Dutch and French governments should recall, just like the Turkish government should, that it is not up to states or the state elite to write or dictate history. It is not democratic to impose one version of history and silence all other conflicting interpretations.

It is my contention that if we are genuinely democratic and fully pro-freedom of speech, we should be able to simultaneously criticize both the implications of Article 301 in Turkey and the recent anti-democratic developments in France and Holland.

October 1, 2006
© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc.

'What happened to EU's principle of freedom of expression?'
The Foreign Ministry's spokesperson yesterday expressed dismay at the exclusion of three Turkish-origin candidates from the Dutch elections, describing the incident as a "bad precedent" which is contrary to the European Union's fundamental principle of freedom of expression.

Stressing that decisions on determining candidates and elections procedures for the Dutch early general elections, set for Nov 22, are an issue of domestic politics and stating views on this issue would be wrong, spokesperson Namik Tan commented on the repercussions of the issue in foreign policy."Ankara is upset that political parties of its friend and ally, the Netherlands, have one-sided views about the Armenian genocide claims which is contrary to freedom of expression," Tan said in a written statement.

Three Turkish-origin candidates have been removed from the Dutch elections list for not recognizing the Armenian genocide claims, ahead of the early general elections. The removal of the three candidates -- Erdinc Sacan from the Dutch Labor Party (PVDA) and Ayhan Tonca and Osman Elmaci from Christian Democratic Party (CDA) -- is the result of the activities of the Armenian lobby in the Netherlands.

Tan continued his criticism, saying that the baseless accusations related to the Armenian genocide that have been covered in the media are directed against Turkey and the Turkish nation and are unacceptable to Ankara. "On an issue on which historians haven't reached a consensus, the one-sided view that was adopted by Turkey's ally and friend, the Netherlands' political parties, by making recognition of the genocide claims a pre-condition to becoming a candidate in the elections, and without taking into consideration different views that could be held by such candidates, sets a bad precedent."

Recalling that Turkey opened its Ottoman archives, including military ones, to contribute to efforts for an academic investigation of the events of 1915, Tan also underlined that Ankara suggested the establishment of a joint commission of Turkish and Armenian historians to study the controversial genocide claims.

The Foreign Ministry spokesperson also stressed that developments like the one in the Netherlands definitely do not contribute to Turkey's good-will efforts in the issue.

The New Anatolian / Ankara
29 September 2006

Half a glass in Turkey
The case of Turkish novelist Elif Shafak makes it hard to decide whether the glass that is Turkey is half-full or half-empty.

Ms. Shafak is the author of a best-selling novel titled "The Bastard of Istanbul." The book, set in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire, features an Armenian character who uses the term "genocide" to describe the Turkish deportations of 1915 in which almost a million Armenians died. Turkey denies there was a genocide, and its recently updated penal code makes use of that term, or others deemed critical of the government, a criminal offense.

Earlier this year, Ms. Shafak was charged under the code with "insulting Turkishness," punishable by up to three years in prison. The glass certainly looks half-empty when one considers that this was even possible, particularly in a country that casts itself as a modern, secular bastion of democracy with credible aspirations to join the European Union. Nor was Ms. Shafak alone. Her case followed a string of others, including the arrest last year, on the same charge, of Turkey's best-known writer, Orhan Pamuk.

The glass looks half full, however, since an Istanbul court acquitted Ms. Shafak on Sept. 21, citing lack of evidence. It would have done better to cite the simultaneous frivolity and menace of the charge -and to remind prosecutors that censorship of fictional characters is incompatible with freedom of speech - but the decision came as a relief nonetheless. Its speed and clarity presumably makes it less likely that the law will be used against other artists anytime soon.

Turkey's problem is that it is under pressure from two directions: the European Union, which is urging the government to improve human rights, and nationalists at home who would like nothing better than to scuttle the country's chances of joining the bloc. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted that the government might revise the part of the code used to prosecute Ms. Shafak. Revising it isn't enough: If Turkey is serious about freedom of speech, not to mention the EU, it ought to abolish it. That would make the glass far less murky.

The Japan Times
September 29, 2006

Talking Turkey: A Conversation with Elif Shafak
On October 21, a Turkish court acquitted best-selling author Elif Shafak for `insulting Turkishness,' citing a lack of evidence. An outspoken critic of Turkey's official policy of denial of the massacres of 1915, Shafak faced 3 years in jail over quotes from her recent novel `Baba ve Pic.' Below is an interview conducted with Shafak earlier this year. Excerpts from this interview have appeared in an article published on ZNet. The Armenian translation of this interview has appeared in Aztag.

Khatchig Mouradian: Tell me about how you became interested in the Armenian issue. I understand that your mother was a Turkish diplomat in Europe in the `80s, Turkish diplomats were being targeted¦

Elif Shafak: That's correct. I was raised by a single mother, and I think this had a role in my worldview. We were in Madrid, Spain, at the time when ASALA [Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia] started targeting Turkish diplomats.

KM: So, in your mind, the word `Armenian' was associated with people trying to kill diplomats for some reason.

ES: Yes, the equivalent of the word `Armenian' was `a terrorist who wants to kill my mother.'

KM: And how did this definition of the word `Armenian' evolve as the years passed?

ES: I have to say, I am against all sorts of terrorist activity, whatever the motivation. So I have always remained against the activities of ASALA. However, I did not become nationalist and pro-state like most children of diplomats tend to become. Perhaps this is because I have always been `curious,' interested in asking the simplest question: Why? Why was there so much rage?

So, after that emotional genesis, I started to read, and the more I read about 1915 the more curious I became. But it was especially after coming to the USA that I started to fully concentrate on this subject and further my research.

I was always fortunate enough to have good friends who shared their family histories with me. I think oral stories and microhistories are as important as written documents when tracing back a nation's history.

KM: What was your mother's reaction when she saw you get involved in the Armenian issue?

ES: My mother is worried. She respects my mind and heart, and yet she is extremely worried that I will be prosecuted, harassed or taken to court because of my views. She is supportive and, at the same time, keeps telling me `to be careful.'

KM: You give a great deal of importance to oral histories. Much has been recorded and written about the Armenian survivors'the grandmothers and grandfathers of the current generation. What would the grandparents of the people living in Turkey today have to say? What importance does their account have in bringing about awareness in Turkey?

ES: I think grandmothers can play an extremely important role, which has not been fully acknowledged by either side yet. As you know, there were hundreds and thousands of Armenian girls orphaned after 1915. Many of them stayed in Turkey, where they were converted to Islam and Turkified. Many people have Armenian grandmothers but they have no idea; it is important to bring out those stories both out of respect for those women and also because they can blur the nationalist boundaries and bridge the gap.

Nationalist Turks who are angry at `outsider' scholars might listen when they hear the same story from their own grandmothers, from the `inside.'

KM: Even a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to speak so openly in Turkey about Islamized Armenians, let alone publish books or write articles on the subject. Can you speak a bit about the changes Turkey has undergone in the past decade?

ES: There are very important changes underway in Turkey. Sometimes, in the West, Turkey looks more black-and-white than it really is. But the fact is, Turkey's civil society is multifaceted and very dynamic. Especially over the past two decades, there have been fundamental transformations. The Armenian Conference in Istanbul (in 2005) was the outcome of such a process. During those days, one major newspaper had the headline: `They even uttered `the G word' but the world has still not come to a stop.' Another newspaper said: `A big taboo is shattered.' After the conference, public debates have not ceased; people are discussing this subject like they never did before. The problem is that the bigger the change, the deeper the panic of those who want to preserve the status quo.

KM: But the current changes are often interpreted as part and parcel of a greater trend to change Turkey, so that it aligns itself with the EU. How has the prospect of EU membership facilitated this process? Would a conference like the Istanbul conference have taken place otherwise?

ES: Turkey's bid to join the EU is an important process for progressive forces both within and outside the country. I am a big supporter of this process and I want Turkey to become part of the EU. The whole process will definitely reinforce democracy, human rights and minority rights in the country. It will diminish the role of the state apparatus and, most importantly, the shadow of the military in the political arena.

KM: What allows an accomplished academic/writer to venture into a realm that is taboo in her country? I mean, you receive hate mail and threats. Many intellectuals would rather conform to the status quo, or at least try to change it gradually. What made you become so committed to go against the flow?

ES: I am a storyteller. If I cannot `feel' other people's pain and grief, I better quit what I am doing. So there is an emotional aspect for me, in that I have always felt connected to those pushed to the margins and silenced rather than those at the center. This is the pattern in each and every one of my novels; I deal with Turkish society's underbelly.

I also have to say that, for me, 1915 is not an isolated case in itself. In other words, the recognition of 1915 is connected to my love for democracy and human rights. I follow the Eastern thinker Ibn Khaldoun in his premise that societies have a life cycle'they are born, they pass a childhood phase, they become older, etc. Turkish society will never be able to become mature if it cannot come to grips with its past. Collective amnesia generates new sorts of atrocities and violations. I think memory is a responsibility. It is the outcome of my conscience as much as an intellectual choice.

KM: Your latest novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, deals with the Armenian issue. What are the main messages you want to convey through that novel to the reader?

ES: the novel is highly critical of the sexist and nationalist fabric of Turkish society. It is the story of four generations of women in Istanbul. At some point their stories converge with the story of an Armenian woman, and thereby an Armenian-American family. I have used this family in San Francisco and the family in Istanbul as mirrors. Basically, the novel testifies to the struggle of amnesia and memory. It deals with painful pasts, both at the individual and collective level.

KM: I am sure you encounter many Armenians who ask you questions; it is a cathartic experience for an Armenian to speak to a person of Turkish origin who can show understanding of the pain suffered by their grandparents. How do you usually respond?

ES: I am always surprised by the tone of `gratitude' that I encounter in the e-mails and letters I receive from Armenians in the Diaspora. I have received deeply inspiring, moving feedback. Sometimes they start by saying, `I have never wanted to thank a Turk before...' Or I receive e-mails where the subject is, `Never written to a Turk before...'

More and more Armenians have started to attend my readings and lectures, and almost always there is slight tension with the Turks in the room, but also very interesting debates are taking place. For me what really matters is to open the channels of dialogue. I truly believe we have so much to learn from one another.

But there is one more thing I'd like to add. Sometimes, Armenians come to me and say: `You criticize all sorts of nationalism, but Armenian nationalism is different than Turkish nationalism.' I respect the differences. However, for me, all sorts of nationalist ideologies end up in the same place. I do not believe that the solution to one form of nationalism is another nationalism. In other words, I do not believe that Turkish nationalism can be counterbalanced by Armenian nationalism or vice versa. I think what we truly need is a cosmopolitan, multicultural democratic approach that eventually challenges all sorts of nationalist and religious boundaries.

KM: I would like us to speak a bit about the issue of identity. How is Turkish identity perceived in Turkey, and how should that be challenged?

ES: `Turkishness' is said to be a supra-identity that covers all sorts of ethnicities and minorities. The Kemalists claimed that as long as you say aloud that you are a Turk, it is enough. Hence, Turkish nationalism is very different than, for instance, German nationalism, where race is more important. In Turkey, the French model is closer. We had a policy of cultural assimilation. We Turkified the culture, we Turkified the people and we Turkified the language.

I am one of the few authors who openly refuses to accept the Turkificiation of the language. I do not use `pure' Turkish; I bring back the words that the Kemalist reformists took out of our language, which is why they are very angry and bitter towards my novels. They accuse me of betraying the national projects. Of course, culture building was such an important task for the Turkish reformist elite.

KM: And as you often cite, a lot was lost during this process of Turkification. Would you agree that embracing the past, with it `bruises' and `beauties,' would give Turkey its cosmopolitan image?

ES: Embracing the past both with its beauties and bruises will give us a sense of continuity, first of all. Today we are a nation built on rupture. How can you have a solid foundation when there is a rupture? Many Kemalists wanted to start history in 1923, the day they came to power. When there is continuity, knowledge can flow from one generation to another. You can become more mature and derive lessons from your mistakes.

Turkey's transition to a modern nation-state has been a transition from a multiethnic, multilingual past to a supposedly homogeneous nation-state. Now it is time to enter a third stage: recognizing the losses and starting to appreciate cosmopolitanism again.

KM: Nationalists, however, would argue that facing the past, especially the bruises'for instance, recognizing the Armenian Genocide'would shake the foundations of Turkey. What's your take on that?

ES: If we had been able to face the atrocities committed against the Armenian minority, it would have been more difficult for the Turkish state to commit atrocities against the Kurds. If we had been able to openly discuss the violations against human rights after each coup d'etat, it would have been more difficult to repeat those. A society based on amnesia cannot have a mature democracy.

KM: Some call Noam Chomsky `America's most useful citizen.' However, he is often considered a person who is anti-U.S., when, in fact, he speaks for a better U.S. and a better world. In your own experience, what do you feel when you are called an enemy of Turkey?

ES: The nationalist discourse in Turkey, just like the Republican discourse in the USA, thinks that if you are criticizing your government, you do not like your nation. This is a lie. Only and only if you care about something will you reflect upon it, give it further thought. I care about Turkey. It hurts me to be accused of `hating my country.' There are essays and editorials in the Turkish media attacking me and calling me a `so-called `Turk.'' It is so ironic. They are used to saying `so-called `Armenian Genocide.'' Now, they are also saying `so-called `Turks.''

KM: As someone who has lived both in Turkey and abroad, who has studied Turkey's past, and who is living in its present and actively working for its future, what does Turkey mean to you?

ES: This is a difficult question. I feel connected to so many things in Turkey, especially in Istanbul. The city, the customs of women, the enchanted world of superstitions, my grandmother's almost magical cosmos, my mother's humanism, and the warmth and sincerity of the people in general. All these are so dear to me. At the same time, I feel no connection whatsoever to its main ideology, its state structure and army.

I think there are two undercurrents in Turkey, both of which are very old. One is nationalist, exclusivist, xenophobic and reactionary. The other is cosmopolitan, Sufi, humanist, embracing. It is the second tide that I feel connected to.

KM: What is the Turkey that you would like to see in 2015?

ES: A Turkey that is part of the EU. A Turkey where women do not get killed on the basis of `family honor.' A Turkey where there is no gender discrimination, no violations against minorities. A Turkey that is not xenophobic, homophobic, and where each and every individual is treated as valuably as the reflection of the Jamal side of God, its beauty.

Khatchig Mouradian
The Armenian Weekly
September 23, 2006

‘Genocide’ Draft on French Agenda / Socialist Party Insists on Armenian Bill

A proposed law that stipulates punishment for denying the alleged Armenian genocide is back on France’s agenda.

To ensure consideration by the parliament, the main opposition Socialist Party (SP), which prepared the draft law, used the right to “determine a special agenda.” . .

The proposal, which designates punishment for denying the Armenian genocide with a fine of 45,000 euros and up to five years imprisonment, will be discussed in the plenary session of the French parliament on Oct. 12.

Observers are optimistic that the proposal will be adopted because of the upcoming elections and the Armenian Diaspora’s intensifying efforts.

The draft was not voted in a parliament session in May since Jean Louis Debre, the chairman of the French parliament, who opposed the proposal, recessed that session twice.

Subsequently, the proposal was dropped from the parliament’s agenda.

The French government, reiterating that the endeavor would seriously harm bilateral relations between France and Turkey, also opposed the draft.

The session was attended by a fairly small number of deputies.

This time the draft came to the forefront amid preparations for the spring presidential and general elections.

It has been reported that the French politicians would not be able to stand against the draft, even if they were hesitant about it, because of the Armenian Diaspora’s influential lobby.

The draft aims at empowering the existing law promulgated in 2001 that openly recognizes the Armenian genocide by adding a sanction clause to it.

In order for the draft to be implemented it must be adopted by the National Assembly on Oct. 12 and then ratified by the French Senate without any amendments and revisions.

If even a single amendment proposal regarding the text is adopted at the Senate, the draft will be returned to the Assembly for further review.

Following Senate approval, the draft also requires the president’s ratification.

The recently improved bilateral relations between Turkey and France will be reportedly affected negatively, even in the case of the adoption of the draft by the Assembly on Oct. 12.

The French companies that seek to win Turkey’s chopper and nuclear power plant construction bids will be most affected by the parliament’s decision.

Meanwhile, French President Jacques Chirac will head to Armenia because of France’s “Year of Armenia.” During his stay, Chirac will visit the Armenian genocide monument.

By Ali Ihsan Aydin, Paris
September 29, 2006

French Socialist Party Insists on Armenian Bill
French opposition Socialist Party (PS) has brought up again a controversial draft bill, which will penalize the denial of the so-called Armenian genocide, to the agenda of the French Parliament.

The draft bill, which will bring up to a year's imprisonment and a fine of up to €45,000 for those who deny the existence of "Armenian genocide", will be discussed and voted in the French Parliament on October 12, in line with a proposal by the opposition party.

In May, the French Parliament postponed the vote of the controversial draft bill. The approval of the Senate is required for the bill to come into force.

The French Parliament passed a bill in 2001 recognizing the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 under the Ottoman Empire.

The fate of the Armenians under the Ottoman Empire during WW1 and after is still a sensitive issue in Turkey.

Armenians claim that 1.5 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed as part of an intentional and systematic campaign of genocide during World War I.

Turkey denies the allegations claiming that 200,000 Armenians died during forced migrations due to cold weather and bad transportation conditions.

By Cihan News Agency
September 29, 2006

Armenian bill pushed in French Parliament again
The French opposition Socialist Party (PS) late Thursday re-submitted to the French Parliament a bill aimed at criminalizing questioning the Armenian genocide claims, a move that is likely to renew tension between Ankara and Paris.

The bill, introducing prison terms of up to one year and fines of up to 45,000 euros for those who question the Armenian genocide claims, will now be redebated by the French Parliament on Oct 12.

The same Armenian bill was previously brought to French Parliament floor in May but due to time constraints, debates on it were postponed indefinitely.

Under the French parliamentary system, opposition parties have the right to bring a few bills to the Parliament floor annually for debate without applying for approval from the relevant commissions.

Although ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) deputies are known to oppose the Armenian bill, their turnout for the vote is expected to be low. This, in turn, may pave the way for the bill's approval. If the French Parliament approves Armenian bill, the approval of the Senate is also necessary for it to become law.

Parliament's Law Commission also rejected the controversial bill before the debates in Parliament in May.

The Parliament recognized the Armenian genocide claims with a decision taken in 2001, a move that created tension in the country's bilateral relations with Turkey.

Turkey's 3 objections to Armenian bill

While Ankara is highly concerned about the possible approval of the Armenian bill by the French Parliament, diplomatic sources outlined three main objections to it.

The first objection is that if the bill passes, it will undermine historical research and investigation that could be carried out by a joint commission of historians, both Armenian and Turkish, since such a decision would limit freedom of expression while publishing their findings.

Ankara proposed the establishment of a joint commission of historians to study the Armenian genocide claims to Yerevan. However, the Turkish move has yet to receive a positive response from the Armenian side.

The second objection listed by the sources is that the French move to pass the bill could add fuel to growing anti-Western sentiment in Turkey which, in turn, could hamper reconciliation efforts by Ankara to normalize relations with Armenia. Although the European Union is urging Ankara to establish diplomatic ties with Yerevan, such a move by an EU member state would endanger bilateral relations between Turkey and Armenia remaining at today's level, the sources warned.

As part of reconciliation efforts, Turkey began direct flights between Istanbul and Yerevan, and seasonally between Antalya and Yerevan, with a view to making it easier for Armenian nationals to travel. Armenian nationals are also welcome to visit Turkey without restrictions. They are accorded visas valid for 30 days on their arrival in Turkey. Over 40,000 Armenian nationals are estimated to reside in Turkey at any time, often overstaying their visas, seeking employment. However Turkey says that it won't open its borders to Armenia unless a solution is found to the status of the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The third objection listed by diplomatic sources is that the approval of the bill by the French Parliament could undermine Turkey's EU process. According to the sources, French approval would of the bill would be a setback for the Union itself, which is urging Ankara to implement reforms on freedom of expression. However, the bill is contrary to the Union's approach since it limits freedom of expression in a member country, a move that could slow the pace of reforms on the issue in Turkey and could be seen as an EU double standard.

The New Anatolian / Paris
30 September 2006

Ankara resolute over Armenian bill, sole concern ties with France

'The Armenian lobby should abandon backstage games and come up with concrete arguments supported by historical facts,' say Turkish diplomatic sources

The French National Assembly has decided to vote in the coming days on a highly contentious bill -- shelved last spring, leading to dismay and anger among the Armenian diaspora in France -- that penalizes any denial of an alleged Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

The assembly's decision for the vote, scheduled for Oct. 12, came at the request from the main opposition Socialist Party, the bill's architect.

When the bill first appeared on the agenda in May, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, backed by Turkish business leaders and unions, appealed to France to block the contentious item, warning of the potential threat to bilateral relations.

As of yesterday the Turkish capital didn't feel the need to release an official response to the recent development in France, which comes at a time when the atmosphere in domestic French politics is heating up with the approach of presidential and parliamentary elections, both slated for next year.

Yet diplomatic sources at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, speaking with the Turkish Daily News, underlined the importance Turkey attributes to bilateral relations with France and expressed concern that adoption of such a controversial bill would harm relations between the two peoples as well as French businessmen doing business in and with Turkey.

“Even if this bill is adopted, it is not possible for Turkey to accept such a theory,” the same sources said, while noting that Ankara has been contacting French officials at every level to prevent the bill's adoption.

Turkish officials drew attention to the fact that Armenia, with its aim of having genocide accusations against Turkey accepted by third-party countries, is trying to damage bilateral relations between Turkey and other countries to secure an advantage in the political arena.

“The Armenian lobby should abandon backstage games and should come up with concrete arguments supported by historical facts,” the diplomatic sources said, referring to Ankara's proposal last year to establish a joint committee of Turkish and Armenian experts to study allegations of an Armenian genocide in the final days of the Ottoman Empire.

Earlier this month, during talks with his French counterpart, Philippe Douste-Blazy, as part of a visit to France, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül suggested that France participate in such a body.

Gül said at the time that other countries, including France, could join the proposed committee of Turkish and Armenian academics to study the allegations.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian proposing the establishment of such a committee, but his proposal was turned down by Kocharian, who instead offered an intergovernmental commission that would study ways of resolving problems between the two neighboring countries. Turkey says its proposal is still on the table.

During talks with Douste-Blazy, Gül also raised Ankara's uneasiness over the French bill penalizing any denial of the alleged genocide. Gül told Douste-Blazy it was a contradiction to hold a parliamentary debate on a bill that restricts freedom of expression, while the European Union presses Ankara to amend Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) under which a wave of authors and journalists has been tried. “We cannot accept a historical issue being dragged onto a political platform,” he said at the time.

Chirac's first trip to Armenia:
Ahead of his first official visit to Armenia at the invitation of Kocharian, Chirac used the phrase “the Armenian genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire.”

Chirac employed the wording during an interview with an Armenian journal; the transcript was translated into Turkish by the French Embassy in Ankara.

“Europe is first of all an effort of reconciliation, peace, respect and openness to others. I believe in Turkey's ability to pay historical tribute, as the spirit of Europe lies in that,” he said.

Chirac, who was scheduled to depart on Friday for the official two-day visit, is also scheduled to visit a monument dedicated to the killings of Anatolian Armenians called the “Memorial to Armenian Genocide.”

Today, Chirac and Kocharian will attend a concert by the renowned Charles Aznavour that will be performed to mark the beginning of the Year of Armenia in France, called “Armenia, My Friend.”

ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
September 30, 2006

Chirac: I Stressed Need To Open Armenian-Turkish Border Many Times
“I believe that the prospect of EU accession is an important element for keeping Turkey on a way, linking that country with the West, which Turkey chose itself,” French President Jacques Chirac stated in an interview to the Hayastani Hanrapetutyun (Republic of Armenia) newspaper. In his words, the accession to EU itself provides for necessary reforms.. .

“This is a long way. I am sure that seeing Turkey declined towards European values, human rights, peace, democracy in interests of both EU and Armenia,” the French President said. He emphasized that he had urged Turkey to open the border with Armenia many times. “However, evidently the issue is closely related with solution of the Karabakh conflict and progress in the Karabakh settlement may have huge importance for solving that issue.

I believe it is possible today,” Chirac said. As of the Armenian Genocide the French leader said that European values provides for working for reconciliation, peace and respect. “I believe in Turkey’s ability to pay historical tribute, as the spirit of Europe lies in that,” Chirac underscored.

29 September 2006

Ankara resents Dutch parties' move on Armenian issue

Tan describes the incident as an example of a 'development contrasting with the priority of freedom of expression that is highlighted on every occasion in the European Union’

The Turkish capital has expressed bitter . . disappointment over the fact that the killings of Armenians in the latter years of the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago unexpectedly cropped up as a leading issue in the Dutch elections.

The two largest Dutch political parties recently removed the names of ethnic Turkish parliamentary candidates from an candidate list for refusing to acknowledge that the killings of Armenians during World War I amounted to genocide, despite the question of whether the issue should properly be termed “genocide” remains a matter of academic and political debate.

The Foreign Ministry, in a written statement released yesterday, first of all noted that it would not be appropriate for Turkey to comment on methods and rules that Dutch political parties should follow while determining their candidates for early elections, slated for Nov. 22, since it is an issue of domestic politics in the Netherlands.

“Nevertheless, it is not possible to accept the presentation of groundless Armenian genocide accusations against our country and our nation in debates recently covered widely in the press as if they are historical truths,” the statement released by Foreign Ministry spokesman Namik Tan said.

Tan expressed Turkey's sadness over the fact that “political parties in a country that Turkey considers a friend and ally are trying to impose their one-sided opinions on candidates as if [agreeing with these opinions] is a precondition for candidacy -- by ignoring different opinions that may be possessed by these individuals in a democratic society.”

He described the incident as an example of a “development contrasting with the priority of freedom of expression that is highlighted on every occasion in the European Union.”

Turkey categorically rejects Armenian charges that 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a genocide campaign during World War I. Turkey does, however, accept that there were killings but maintains that they came as the Ottoman Empire was trying to quell civil unrest sparked by Armenian collaboration with the invading Russian army.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year called for a joint committee of Turkish and Armenian historians to investigate what happened during World War I, but Armenia has not responded favorably.

Referring to Ankara's proposal to establish such a body, Tan brought to mind that Turkey has also opened its entire Ottoman Empire archives for scientific research of the issue. Yet, he said, it is obvious that the incident in the Netherlands and other similar occurrences weren't helping these well-intentioned efforts by Turkey.

The candidates who have been removed from candidate lists include Ayhan Tonca of the ruling Christian Democrat Party. Tonca is one of the country's most prominent moderate Muslims and chairman of the umbrella organization of Islamic groups, the Contact Body for Muslims and Government (CMO), representing approximately 80 percent of the Muslim community.

The Christian Democrats also rejected the candidacy of Osman Elmaci, while the opposition Labor Party has withdrawn the candidacy of Erdinc Sacan.

An earlier reaction against the incident came from the Turkish government, with spokesman Justice Minister Cemil Cicek criticizing the Netherlands in the name of freedom of speech.

In a live interview Wednesday on NTV Cicek said he would bring up the issue in talks with EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn when Rehn visits Turkey next week.

On the same day members of the European Parliament adopted a critical report on Ankara's progress towards eventual EU membership in which they called on Turkey to “acknowledge the Armenian genocide before it joins the EU and to come to terms with and recognize its past."

September 29, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

It is a worrying development that some political parties in Holland have banned ethnic Turkish candidates from standing in elections unless they accept that the Ottoman Empire committed an act of genocide against its Armenian community during World War One, a spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. “We are deeply worried about the one-sided approach of our ally Netherlands’ political parties on the so-called Armenian genocide as this puts a limit on the freedom of expression” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Namik Tan said Thursday. “It is not possible to accept allegations on so-called Armenian genocide as historical reality.”

Three candidates of Turkish origin were removed from party lists for the forthcoming elections on November 22 as a result of lobbying by Holland’s Armenian community.

Tan said that Turkey had done all that had been asked of it to assist in looking into the incidents of 1915.

“Turkey has opened all archives, including military ones, so that the incidents of 1915 can be studied from a scientific perspective,” he said.

“Turkey offered to establish a committee of historians from both Turkey and Armenia to study the incidents of 1915.”

29 September 2006

Erdogan dismisses external moves on Armenian issue

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday praised Turkey's history and, dismissing allegations of an Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, said resolutions recognizing the allegations in other countries were not acceptable.

“Countries that have nothing to do with the issue accusing Turkey of genocide is indigestible,” Erdoğan told a Turkish history conference in Ankara, describing the allegations of genocide as “one of the politically motivated attempts to stain our history.”

Defending Turkey, he declared, “There can hardly be another nation as blameless as the Turkish nation.”

Turkey categorically rejects Armenian charges that one-and-a-half-million Armenians were killed in a campaign of genocide during the years of World War I. Turkey does, however, accept that there were killings but maintains that they came as the Ottoman Empire was trying to quell civil unrest sparked by Armenian collaboration with the invading Russian army.

The parliaments of several countries as well as the European Parliament have passed resolutions recognizing the alleged genocide. Last week the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee voted to endorse a report requesting that Turkish recognition of the alleged genocide be made a condition for Turkey's European Union membership.

Although the EU Commission, the bloc's executive arm, made clear that there would be no extra condition for candidate Turkey, the report still left a sour taste in Ankara's mouth and drew an angry response from Turkish leaders, who rejected the report as politically-biased and unrealistic and branded its arguments “fictitious.”

Erdoğan has called for a joint committee of Turkish and Armenian historians to investigate what happened during World War I but Armenia has not responded favorably.

“We have not received a positive response so far, but we still maintain hope that we will,” he said yesterday.

The prime minister also said the international debate over the Armenian allegations was a “clear example of history being used as a tool to score political goals,” reiterating his call for a scholarly investigation of the issue.

Apparently in response to criticism over his government's decision to send troops to Lebanon, Erdoğan also said that Turkey, located where Europe, Asia and Africa meet, cannot “isolate itself from tensions in the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East.

“Developments in this vast geography definitely concern us,” he said. “We have to be watchful for dangers emerging in our region, threats against our security, and take the necessary measures in time.”

September 12, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline: Strategic link as Turkey's insurance policy & Interview with Demirel

Turkey's strategic importance is a worn-out cliché. It became debatable in the early '90s, in the post-Cold War period and more particularly after the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. Its importance started to gain currency again after the first military operation against Saddam and the Afghan offensive. When the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline was first mooted, reactions were that it was an impossible project, perhaps even a pipe dream. Turkey's position and its new role as a natural gas and oil corridor and perhaps even as an energy hub have brought the strategic importance paradigm back into full value as never before.

In its first decade, the BTC had its agnostics in the West and its enemies in Russia as well as its believers -- like this author. My previous writings on the subject were six years ago (TDN February 2000 titled Turkey as an energy terminal) and again five years ago (TDN July 2001 titled A pipeline for a pipe dream). These were described at the time as over-optimistic and even ridiculed as a figment of the imagination. The project was branded as a U.S. political move against Russian oil supremacy, far from economically feasible. Many petroleum giants in the West were overtly skeptical, not to mention pejoratively antagonistic. The moment of truth was reached four years ago when British Petroleum came around to the idea, and the fate of the BTC was looked upon realistically for the first time. There and then the BTC project gained momentum.

The BTC's successful completion is the result of big thinking, imaginative, risk-taking and creative business, when oil prices were at their lowest level, at $24 per barrel. No one in their right mind could then imagine the present level of $78 per barrel for crude. BP led the international consortium that started a win-win game in which none of the players investing lost a penny and all gained. A total of 70 percent of the nearly $4 billion cost of building the pipeline came from loans from international banking, public financial institutions -- led by the IFC, part of the World Bank -- and the EBRD of CitiGroup. Turkey contributed $1.4 billion.

Turkey benefited greatly from the BTC, together with Azerbaijan and Georgia, and gained a valuable bargaining chip with the EU in its negotiation, an invaluable insurance policy, albeit one with its first installment coming before the Nabucco project is realized in 2010. The Nabucco project will form a vital natural gas pipeline running from Turkey to Bulgaria, Romania and to Austria then on to the rest of Europe. Beyond a doubt, this will link Turkey and the European Union like an umbilical cord, so forming a single economic financial and commercial unit.

In fact, the Nabucco project is an offspring of the BTC, as the Samsun-Ceyhan natural gas project to Israel will be, no ifs, ands or buts. Turkey gained prominence with the realization of the BTC, not only in its campaign to be admitted to the EU but also in the global oil market by providing oil security both East-West and North-South. It is also true that two decades ago, no strategist worthy of the name could have imagined today's hard-won laurels and the glory of the BTC.

It is a truism to say that energy is the source of life, of economic well-being in the industrialized world and that it lies at the heart of civilized living. It is also true that energy must be provided safely and in a sustainable manner. In this age of international terrorism and energy diplomacy, energy is used as a threat. There was no better route to follow for oil and gas pipelines than via the high mountains of the Caucasus in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey -- for a long stretch of more than 1,750 kilometers -- to the seaport of Ceyhan. It was an engineering masterpiece against difficult climatic and natural conditions and obstacles. It would have been easier if the terrain had been like the Gobi Desert or the Sahara.

I spent three years of my childhood in Ceyhan, from 1946-49, while having my secondary education; my father was manager of Is Bankasi in what was then a god-forsaken town. I remember going to Yumurtalik to see the blue waters of the Mediterranean and for a swim to escape Ceyhan's hot and humid summers. It is beyond imagination to witness backwater Ceyhan gaining international prominence, now ahead of the port of Rotterdam. Who would also have believed that the great Kirkuk-Yumurtalik pipeline near Ceyhan would be left to rot in disuse for so long due to terrorist attacks. Iraq shooting itself in the foot?

The BTC has gained the title of the Project of the 21st Century and quite rightly so. It will provide around $300 million in revenue to Turkey. This financial aspect is of only secondary importance to the international prestige it will bring and the strategic importance it will provide to Turkey.

Since the moment the farsighted British Petroleum decision was made, the bet was on incoming Kazakh natural gas and oil for Western markets, across the Caspian Sea next to Azeri oil and Turkmen gas. One question was the political alliance between Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation. I was also a believer in the Kazakh-China oil pipeline project, against natural obstacles and the high price involved, as I wrote in a paper presented in the Asian Security Conference in Delhi in 2001. Though many Chinese doubted the viability, there was no alternative for China, and now Kazakh participation in the BTC is finally a reality that guarantees the economic viability and profitability of the BTC.

July 13, 2006 was truly a historic date, when the first shipment of BTC oil was disgorged into global markets, as witnessed by the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey amongst great pomp and pageantry. The BTC is now estimated at a modest 1 million barrels a day for the moment. The construction began in May 2003, with the pipeline to be completed in two years, but due to unforeseen infrastructural problems it was delayed by about 16 months.

The BTC project is governed and run by an intergovernmental agreement between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia. British Petroleum, as the leader of the project, had signed Host Government Agreements with the three governments involved. The BTC was a state project for Turkey, with all the duties and responsibilities that entails, and was completed as such. All the governments involved since the beginning of the project have had their positive contributions rewarded by the BTC's realization. The BTC is a determining factor in Turkey's bright future as much as for Azerbaijan, Georgia and their peoples. The BTC guarantees Turkey's energy supply at home: Turkey is a country hungry for oil and natural gas.

Turkey, as an age-old bridge between the East and West, has now gained a new political meaning and practical importance with economic value. The BTC will heft political clout for Turkey.

The BTC will be run for Turkey's part by the state-owned Turkish Pipeline Company (BOTAS), and this gives great responsibility to BOTAS (which is going through difficult administrative problems, as reported in the media) to play its part according to the rules of the game. Oil and natural gas are tremendous advantages if Turkey's part is played professionally but may turn into a disadvantage if not.

Sunday, August 6, 2006


© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc.

Former President Süleyman Demirel: ‘The BTC is an engineering masterpiece and a political success’

Gökhan Kazbek - EkoTürk News Agency / Ankara
04 August 2006

The idea of transferring Azeri oil to Turkey through a pipeline dates back to 1991 when the USSR collapsed. For 15 years there was heated debate surrounding the project. In 1992 when the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) project for Azerbaijan oil was officially proposed, it included Iran on the transit route and was announced to the world as the Azerbaijan-Iran, Nakhchivan-Turkey pipeline. But the route wasn’t approved of by the U.S., which was explicit about its attitude towards the regime in Iran and maintained an economic and commercial embargo on the country.

Afterwards, the alternative route to Turkey through Georgia was offered. In response, other lines were suggested supported by Russia, ones stretching to the Black Sea, ignoring Turkey’s concern over the Straits, and yet others which bypassed the Straits and had little economic value. A midway was devised in the 1999 Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Istanbul with the contribution of the United States and the leaders of the countries involved.

In the presence of U.S. President Bill Clinton, Turkish President Süleyman Demirel, Azeri President Haydar Aliyev, and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze — Aliyev has since passed away, and the others are no longer in office — signed the package deals that involved Azeri oil being brought to Ceyhan. Clinton also signed the agreement as the observer. In accordance with the terms of 1999 agreement, basic engineering groundwork was initiated at the end of 2000. The construction actually began in 2003. The first drops of oil reached Ceyhan in late May, and the first tankers were loaded in early June.

Turkey’s former President Süleyman Demirel told EkoTürk News Agency about the process of the BTC oil pipeline.
EKOTÜRK: Mister President, there have been many media stories about the BTC. You were one of the main actors of this project. Could you tell us a little about its foundations?

DEMİREL: A new period began in 1989 across the world with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. After the fall of the wall, the Mikhail Gorbachev administration emerged in Russia with two important concepts of Glasnost and Perestroika (i.e. transparency and efficiency), the principles that they wished to introduce to the management of the state. Actually both were signs of the collapse of the Soviet system. They proved to be complementary. The Soviet system collapsed in 1989-1991 and new independent republics emerged in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Countries in the Balkans, in Central and Eastern Europe that were under the influence of the Soviet rule shed this system. That brought along a new and very significant change in political geography of the world. A point to stress here is that the change wasn’t anticipated at all. History had not hitherto witnessed an empire that collapsed without any bloodshed or strife. The Soviet Empire was truly an empire, a giant country spreading over 22 million square kilometers on which 250 million people lived and spoke 104 languages. It was an industrial country with immense military might. It also possessed vast economic power. However, while half of Europe, Western Europe, attained a per capita income level of some $20,000 , the Soviet system could not go over $3,000. Hence it was evident that the Marxist and Communist rule that rested beneath the Soviet system didn’t suffice to take a country forward despite having achieved certain things. And people began to talk about new things: “a new world order” was to be built. It became clear later on that this new world order would be built on democracy, human rights, and the market economy. That was the system that made Europe rich. Both the new republics and the republics that came out of Soviet influence embraced democracy and the market economy to astonishing degrees and turned their faces to the West with their old guard even before they built their new institutions. As these developments were underway, Turkey embraced the Eurasian region for its part. Most of Eurasia were countries that rested on 11 million square kilometers of territory, with a population of 200 million, most of which spoke Turkic languages and were Muslim. Turkey had seen these countries and peoples as captivated countries and captivated peoples. Atatürk had an almost prophetic vision: “We cannot do anything for these places at the moment. But the time will come when the Soviet system will collapse just like the Ottoman Empire did. We should be taking care of them on that day.” In early 1991, the day came. All, or at least most of these kin countries that spoke Turkish, countries whose destinies we could not figure out for many years and which we didn’t know very well even during the Czarist period that was undermined by 80 years of Communist rule, were now rid of the oppression.

At the elections of fall 1991, the True Path Party (DYP) that I was heading won the elections and I was told for the seventh time to form a Cabinet. So I established a coalition government together with the Social Democratic Populist Party and started my post. At about the time the republics that we term Eurasian countries were just declaring independence. As soon as they declared independence, Turkey took a close interest in these countries. I received the post to establish the government on Nov. 7, 1991 and as our government had not been given the vote of confidence on Nov. 9, 1991, the Cabinet preceding ours recognized Azerbaijan. Our government began its post as the 49th Cabinet on Nov. 20, 1991 and recognized all of the republics that emerged out of the Soviet system. These included Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. On the other side Yugoslavia also collapsed and Turkey recognized the countries that were born out of that as well. The government that we established in 1991 recognized all the countries out of the collapsed Soviet empire and the countries in the Caucasus, including Georgia and Armenia, with the world context in mind. New countries and a new commonwealth emerged, and we had moral and ethical duties to these countries, that’s what we felt. Actually, these countries didn’t know us very well and vice versa. But we were in a position to get to know them. We formed strong relationships with Azerbaijan on Jan. 14, 1992. I visited Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan as the premier on April 27-May 2, 1992.
‘Newly independent countries didn’t want a new big brother’

These were very young republics at the time and had nothing at hand. They had founded a state but the state had no institutions. These states would be founded on democratic principles but they had no knowledge of democracy. The state would acknowledge the market economy but they had neither the institutions nor the entrepreneurs to get the market economy going. Most important of all, they had no legislation either. In terms of development, 50 percent of the Soviet economy actually rested on military industries but military industry had lost its appeal too. They didn’t know what to do. We advised these countries what to do for democratic rule and a market economy and we delivered files to each of the country leaders with information on what to do about things. All of these countries were gravely in need of certain things as their markets and their current systems had come to a total halt. They needed everything, from food to medicine. Besides, there was no party that could make investments, and other countries were unwilling to invest under hazy circumstances as well. I committed during my visit to lend these young republics $1 billion in the name of the Republic of Turkey. The credits were opened and later used. With the exception of Kyrgyzstan, all were repaid. I also opted to invite students from these countries during the visit. The first group would number around 3,000 people and the figure would later climb to 15,000 people. Hence we would be building bridges with these countries, incoming students would study at Turkish universities, would learn the Anatolian dialect of Turkish, would see Turkey and be able to compare Turkey’s development with the development attained by communism in their countries. They would see that there was development outside communism and the comfort and the liberty in Turkey. This was a very successful program. These countries only knew of Moscow as the window to the outside world. Their connection to Moscow needed to be severed, or rather, diversified. New actors needed to be involved alongside Moscow. We connected their television and telephone administrations to Turkey at a time when all their affairs were dependent on Moscow. Turkey was a window to the world for these countries.

These countries had extraordinary natural resources. Hence I advised themı: “Unless you can process these natural resources and bring them to light, the prosperity of your people will not be a possibility.” The nations needed prosperity. We told them that they needed to develop the industries that would meet the needs of their people and we would help them out for that and consequently we did so. In the following 10 years Turks undertook 80 percent of the public work and construction projects in the region. Among the natural resources energy and mining were forerunners. And among these the most significant resources were oil and gas resources. Gas was the resource of Turkmenistan and oil was that of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan as well. At the time, the amount of global oil reserves was known to be 1 billion barrels. Some 66 percent of that was in the Persian Gulf. Iran was part of that. Twenty percent was in the Caspian basin, and 20 percent was in other countries of the world. Turkey was situated at such a location that, while it didn’t hold oil and gas, it was neighboring it. Turkey could just as well cooperate with its neighbors to process this oil and gas and help these countries prosper while it would become an energy corridor or energy terminal itself. Turkey built the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline for that matter and before that had brought its own oil from Batman to İskenderun and built a pipeline from Ceyhan to Kırıkkale. Therefore, it had some experience with pipelines. It could undertake these as well. Turkey, at the end of the day, had built the pipeline that received gas from Russia (the Blue Stream project was nonexistent at the time). Nevertheless, it wasn’t clear how much oil Azerbaijan possessed. The amount of oil processed in Azerbaijan was a mere 8-10 million tons. Azerbaijan has had oil for a very long time but the amount of it had fallen to very low levels. Russia bought and processed all of the gas in Turkmenistan. Kazakhstan began to search for oil particularly in the Tengiz region. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev took a quite bold step and opened his country to the world. Oil depends on global capital and global experience anyway. The world’s oil industrialists came and found vast resources in Tengiz and new resources elsewhere later on. The relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan started out very positive as these Turkic-speaking countries are actually people of the same nation in terms of language, traditions and customs but among all of them Azerbaijan is the closest to Anatolian Turkishness. In terms of both language and traditions, Azerbaijan was seen as the second state of the same nation. The intimate relations served the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey to a great extent. We signed an agreement with Azerbaijan administrators in Ankara on March 9, 1993. I put my signature underneath as prime minister and Hikmet Çetin signed as the foreign minister and Sabit Bagirov as the oil minister of Azerbaijan. This is how the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline started officially. The rest is just chatter, before this point is just chatter, whoever might talk about it, including myself, it is just chatter. We say we should do it, and I have outlined all of these to indicate why we should do it. Unless you know these, the rest is dross. Turkey had some concerns. First of all we started out with great enthusiasm and as a Eurasian state in the heart of Eurasia, but how do we cooperate with the Turkic world in Eurasia in terms of trade, culture and education without provoking concerns over Pan-Turkism and Pan-Islamism? These newly independent countries didn’t want a new big brother. We were to engage in cooperation in equal terms but become more interdependent. One of the ways of boosting interdependence is to step up individual relationships. I think that holds more water than the trade part. This is about bringing the Turkic world closer together. In every step taken here we need to seek to bring the Turkic world closer outside of the conditions of Pan-Turkism and Pan-Islamism.

Turkey had another concern: Since the time of the Soviet Union, oil transfers were blocking the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits in Turkey and causing accidents. The city of Istanbul was facing fire hazards. The more we could transfer the oil that we got from Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean without using the Straits, the greater Turkey would benefit. Therefore at the preliminary agreement we signed on March 9, 1993 we committed in principle to bring down Baku oil as part of Caspian oil to the Mediterranean. I had discussed the same issue with Mr. Elchibey prior to that date, and so had (late President) Turgut Özal. And yes, we should bring Caspian oil down to the Mediterranean and save the Straits and in the meantime improve our relations with these countries, we should bring the gas in Turkmenistan to Turkey, each of these were part of our considerations and we needed to materialize those considerations but first of all that required some presence of oil in Azerbaijan. But there was no oil in Azerbaijan. I would like to mention at this point an occasion that turned out to be a landmark.

Aliyev opened oil areas in the Caspian Basin to the world
Haydar Aliyev received the post of president of the Republic in Azerbaijan in 1993. Aliyev was a knowledgeable and great statesman who knew the world very well. Aliyev opened to the world the oil areas reserved for them in the Caspian Basin. He opened them to global companies with an agreement called the Production and Sharing of Azerbaijan Oil. That is a major event. He called that the “contract of the century” himself. A corporation was founded between Azerbaijan state company SOCAR and foreign firms, and Turkish TPAO was a shareholder with 1.75 percent. By the way, I’d like to stress this one point: I went to Davos in 1992. Russia was melting down and new countries were emerging. I had just been around Central Asia, and I said in Davos: “A new political geography is appearing after the Cold War. This is not a conflict zone or a new area of penetration; to the contrary, it should be a safe haven for peace and prosperity whereby conflicts will be replaced by a spirit of cooperation and coexistence.” I declared these points to all nations in Davos.

After this international corporation was founded in 1994 there were new efforts. Another 5 percent was added to the share given to Turkey in 1995. In the meantime, there were ongoing negotiations, debate as to where the pipeline should pass. There was conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia on Karabakh. There was considerable debate on whether it should pass through Iran or Georgia and eventually resolved that technically speaking, the right thing to do was to pass it through Georgia. But that was disputed: Some said that as there is the Baku-Supsa line, it could very well be expanded and used to transfer the oil in Azerbaijan and so there was no need for a Baku-Ceyhan line. Russia was an opponent at the end of the day. Mr. Aliyev and I responded to those and insisted that the Baku-Ceyhan line be built and the right thing to do was to pass it through Georgia. But what would Georgia do about this? I find the role of Shevardnadze here to be very significant. Shevardnadze thought this line would be very important not only in economic terms but also to connect the Caucasus and Caspian countries to Turkey and supported the idea to the very end. The route of the line was now clear, but there were many other issues concerning nationalization. None of these countries had any experience with that. Such a widespread movement was never seen in this region. But both Aliyev and Shevardnadze handled the nationalization issues very well. Aliyev went to Tbilisi to give Shevardnadze a boost and increased their share. So the template was now on the table.

Then the 75th Anniversary of the Turkish Republic was celebrated. The presidents of Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Georgia as well as U.S. energy secretary attended the celebrations and we signed an agreement with them on Oct. 29, 1998. Here we issued a declaration and hence the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project took another leap forward. Now the real issue was actually this: On Nov. 18, 1999 the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting was held in Istanbul and intergovernmental agreements were made on that occasion. Aliyev signed the agreement for Azerbaijan, Shevardnadze for Georgia and myself for Turkey. U.S. President Bill Clinton was the witness. Host country agreement, turnkey contracting agreement and the governmental guarantees agreement were signed on that date. The matter was well on track, the issue now was to find the money, run the tenders and manage the construction. The construction project and other tasks were completed by Sept. 18, 2002 and then the foundation was laid with a ceremony by the presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Oil was transferred for the first time on May 25, 2005 and the pipeline was opened with a ceremony on July 13, 2006.

The annual revenues of the project for Turkey are $300 million. The project should not be assessed based solely on this but other benefits of the project concerning the Straits and connecting Eurasia should be taken into consideration as well. However, Turkey will in any case be making significant amount of money from this project within a time frame of 40 years. Many people contributed to the materialization of this project. The late President Turgut Özal supported the project in the beginning, and in the aftermath these figures should be cited: Aliyev, Clinton, Bush — father and son both — Nazarbayev, Shevardnadze, and myself as the president of the Republic of Turkey. Of course, all the relevant institutions of Turkey, and Botas first of all, contributed to the project to a major extent. And hence this giant project, “the project of the century,” came to life.

This is how I put it across in the OSCE meeting in 1999: “Today we are not only connecting the Caspian and the Mediterranean, but also bonding our destinies together. Today we are making our common dreams come true. The agreements that we have just signed will serve peace and prosperity. We are not only declaring our resoluteness to transfer the oil and natural gas resources of the Caspian basin to world markets in an economic and environmentally friendly way, but also responding to the call of history.”

EKOTÜRK: How would you define the BTC project?
DEMİREL: In my opinion this project is an engineering masterpiece and a political success, a diplomatic triumph at the same time. It is a diplomatic triumph to surpass Russia and to bring this project thus far is a diplomatic. It is a great political achievement to bring the ex-Soviet republics together and to add Turkey and the U.S. on and to bring such a project to fruition.
The point is that the project is undertaken and completed. The questions of who opened it and the like are just details. In fact, the remembrance and the consideration of those that have served in the materialization of this project is just for the sake of those who will serve after this point. What matters for those who have served is that the work is complete. To thank those who served will encourage those who will serve, that is the reason why they should be remembered.

EKOTÜRK: Looking at the implementation and the achieved results, can we say that the project reached its goal?
DEMİREL: Yes, we can. The pending task is to provide oil to the world. The project sources will be enriched in that new oil resources will be discovered and that will help those countries to a great extent. If the Kirkuk pipeline continues to operate there will be 150-200 million tons of oil. That is a significant figure for Turkey, so much so that Turkey is almost becoming an oil country, even though the oil does not belong to itself and the oil in the country belong to others.

EKOTÜRK: What is the benefit of this pipeline for the United States?
DEMİREL: Some of the companies are American companies and part of the capital is American capital, but the main point is that the United States as a superpower would always wish to enhance its prowess in this region. Of course, the construction of such a pipeline would increase the influence of the U.S. and the U.S. would wish to maintain the power it acquires in the coming term rather than preserving the power it has accumulated thus far. Therefore it would aim to stay on good terms with the countries in the region. The U.S. has given a lot of support to the project. If they had not supported the project, we would have faced significant difficulty in finding money and overcoming the political obstacles.

EKOTÜRK: How did you feel at the opening ceremony on July 13?
DEMİREL: I was very pleased, very gratified. My country has gained a new facility. A major part of the things that I envisioned has come true. Many things that seem to be a dream for others have become reality for me, and this is one of them. My country has boosted its power.

EKOTÜRK: Thank you for talking with us.
DEMİREL: Thank you.


Armenian Minister Of Culture To Be Invited To Opening Of Akhdamar Church

Atilla Koc, the Minister of Culture of Turkey spoke on the previous day in Ankara about those cultural surprises that the Government of Turkey has prepared for this autumn.

The main one among them is considered to be re-opening of the Armenian Akhdamar church in the Lake Van, after a long and expensive reconstruction work. As "Marmara" states quoting the Turkish "Radical" newspaper, the Minister of Culture of Armenia will also be invited to the opening ceremony of this Armenian historic church.

Prime Minister Recep Tyyip Erdogan will fulfil the solemn opening. Representatives from countries like France, which has adopted the law concerning the Armenian Genocide, will also be invited to the event.

"The Aghtamar church will be opened in front of the whole world, we invite tourists of all over the world for they come and see that we spent 4 billions on reconstruction of Akhdamar," the Minister of Culture of Turkey said.

Noyan Tapan
Armenians Today
Aug 21 2006


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