Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), arrived in Ankara to discuss the consequences of a possible American military operation against Saddam Hussein’s regime with the Turkish leaders. He was seen by Prime Minister Abdullah Gul on 10 January.
On 9 January Mr. Barzani indicated that his organisation and Turkey had agreed on the necessity for improving their bilateral links since the Turkish authorities threatened to intervene militarily in Iraqi Kurdistan. “We clearly have many points in common. The two parties are of the opinion that our relations must return to their former level” Mr. Barzani declared to the Press, through an interpreter, after his meeting with the Turkish Foreign Secretary, Ugur Ziyal. “They (the relations) must be based on friendship and cooperation. I am convinced that such a basis exists” he added.
Mr. Barzani then visited Damascus on 11 January for meetings with Syrian leaders regarding the Iraqi crisis. He met the Syrian Vice-President, Abdel Hakim Khaddam as well as the number two of the Baas Party, in power, Mr. Abdallah al-Ahmar. Early in November Jalal Talabani had also been received in Damascus.
In December, turkey had welcomed Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) who, for his part visited Teheran for a five day visit on 6 January. Mr. Talabani was officially met by the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Mehdi Karoubi, and President Mohammad Khatami. He also had discussions with Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Hakim and other leaders of the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, another organisation of the opposition to the Saddam Hussein regime. The leader of the PUK assured Teheran, on 10 January, that the American authorities were ready to give “all guarantees” to the Iranian authorities that they would undertake no actions against them in the event of conflict with Iraq. According to Mr. Talabani, the Americans were sending a message to the Iranians saying that “Washington and Teheran had common interests (…) and that they (the united States) would do nothing against Iran in this crisis”. Iran, which opposes any unilateral American attack on Iraq, has stated that it will observe “an active neutrality” in the event of a conflict.
Despite sharp protests within the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Ankara sent Minister of State Kursat Tuzmen to Baghdad accompanied by a 350 man strong delegation, mostly of businessmen. Contrary to all expectations, the Turkish minister was seen by Saddam Hussein in person on 12 January for a two hour long meeting, in the course of which a letter from the Turkish Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul, was given to the Iraqi President who is said, specifically, to have declared “If Turkey enters the war, your security will be threatened”. The Turkish daily Milliyet, the next day reported this on its front page as “A message that resembles a threat to Ankara” under a banner headline “Scandal in Baghdad”. The paper published a photo of Kursat Tuzmen holding hands with Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yasin Ramazan, who was wearing battle dress and a revolver. It reported that the Press Conference began with a speech by the Iraqi Vice-President in which he said : “If Iraq is attacked, Turkey will not only have economic problems but security and other problems as well. Turkey will be acting against itself by helping the United States”. Then, questioned about Turkish claims to Mossul and Kirkuk oil, Mr. Ramazan lost his temper “I will not bother to answer that sort of question” he said getting up and ending the Conference. The paper stresses that the Turkish Minister was politely accompanied to the lift without having said a single word.
Furthermore, the Turkish daily Hurriyet of 12 January revealed that the United States had sent Marc Parris, former American Ambassador to Ankara, to explain that Turkey’s hesitations would count against it if they continued. “Turkey is late in deciding. You are mistaken if you think that the Arab world will not take its stand behind the United States. Saudi Arabia and Jordan joined us long ago. The United States have no more patience left. If you delay any more Washington will apply its B plan by launching its attack from Kuwait and Jordan. Instead of three weeks, the war will last five or six weeks. There will be more deaths and more pain”. He then added “But one day the war will end and on that day, if you think of coming to the negotiating table the White House telephone will be constantly engaged”. Finally, pressed by the Army top brass, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, on 10 January, gave Washington his agreement to its inspection of its military bases and ports in the perspective of an eventual war with Iraq. The inspections, that aimed at assessing the state of these Turkish installations, were due to begin on 13 January, and take about 10 days.
This decision comes over a month after the US Assistant Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz had stated that Washington was ready to invest hundreds of millions of dollars for renovating Turkey’s bases.
The Turkish NTV Channel had announced as early as 7 January that Turkey would open its air space to American U2 spy planes flying over Iraq as a sign of cooperation with the United States.
• THE TURKISH PRIME MINISTER’S TOUR OF THE NEAR EAST AGAINST THE BACKGROUND OF THE IRAQI CRISIS. In the context of a regional tour that aims to discuss “the consequences of a war against Iraq”, the Turkish Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul, went, on 6 January, on an official visit to Amman where he had a discussion with King Abdallah II of Jordan on means of avoiding American military action in Iraq.
Before going to Jordan, Mr. Gul had visited Syria and Egypt, where he had stated, after a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, his refusal to “see Iraq divided” and called for avoiding a war in that country. “We must all work hard to prevent the war. Iraq is also responsible” added Mr. Gul at the Red Sea resort of Sharm esh-Sheikh.
To finish he tour, the Turkish Prime Minister visited Saudi Arabia on 11 January — the first visit of a Turkish leader at this level for a decade, finishing his tour with a visit to Teheran on 12 January.
• THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR OF THE COURT OF APPEALS OPPOSES RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN’S STANDING AS CANDIDATE IN A BYE-ELECTION. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), at present in power in Turkey, is still ineligible and cannot stand at a bye-election that would allow him to enter Parliament and so head the government, judged the Public Prosecutor of the Court of Appeals, Sabih Kanadoglu, on 7 January.
In a written statement, the country’s senior Public Prosecutor considered that the constitutional and legislative amendments recently passed by Parliament to enable Mr. Erdogan to become Prime Minister cannot apply to the Siirt bye-election, which may take place in March. The leader of the AKP, however, hoped to stand for this election, the authorities having disallowed the 3 November result on technical grounds. However, Mr. Kanadoglu considered that this was not a bye-election but a “continuation of the November elections” letting it be understood that Mr. Erdogan would have to wait for the holding of a bye-election in another province.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP, an off shoot of the Islamic movement) overwhelmingly won the 3 November general elections, but its leader was declared ineligible to stand because of a sentence passed in 1998 for “incitement to religious hatred” because he had recited a poem, at one of his meetings, written by the author of the Turkish National Anthem !
The final decision on the matter is due to be taken in a few days time by the High Electoral Council.
• 75 DEAD IN AN AEROPLANE CRASH IN KURDISTAN : SECURITY MEASURES HAD NOT BEEN TAKEN FOR MILITARY REASONS. The crash of a Turkish Airlines passenger plane on 8 January at Diyarbekir had caused 75 deaths — seventy passengers and five members of the crew. The fog was blamed for the accident to flight RJ-100 from Istanbul, which crashed and caught fire as it was trying to land. The plane broke into three parts and caught fire in a military part of the airfield, which adjoins the civilian airport. According to the official assessment, there were five survivors of the fire.
Several papers state that this airport has no radio guidance system (ILS) which would enable pilots to follow a correct landing path in the event of lack of visibility, simply because the authorities considered that this system might perturb the armed forces radar. The President of the Turkish line pilots’ Association, Necmi Ekici, considered that “the risk of accident could have been reduced to a minimum” at Diyarbekir airport if it had been fitted with an ILS system.
Furthermore two Air Force planes crashed in the same region. The four airmen in the two RF-4 Phantoms jets were killed during a training flight in the Malatya region. The cause was a collision in flight during a thick fog covering the whole region.
• READ IN THE TURKISH PRESS : “THE COUNTRY THAT REWARDS LARGE SCALE SWINDLING”. Mehmet Y. Yilmaz, a journalist on the Turkish daily Milliyet, criticised the attitude of the Turkish authorities who show an unbounded indulgence towards the owners of bankrupt Turkish banks who have left the country with a debt of $20 billion. Here are extensive extracts from this article, published on 3 January.
“The Parliamentary Commission of the previous parliament had asked the Committee for Banking Organisation and Control (BDDK) for details of the bad debts of the public banks. The BDDK has not answered their enquiry, quoting Article 22 of the banking laws regarding “banking secrecy”.
According to information published yesterday (2/1/2002) in the daily Radikal, a Bill is being drawn up by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to reform this “banking secrecy”. If this reform is passed, Parliament will then have the right to ask the BDDK for information regarding the bad debts of our public banks. In this way, we will also know what is this so obstinately guarded “secret”.
The fact of having this information will help break down the mentality hitherto reigning in the public banks and we will then know to whom and why public resources were transferred for political concerns.
We have lived through a period in which the banking sector has remained outside any control, where no one has raised their voice against the fact that banks were emptied for political reasons. In the last resort, we have all, as a nation, paid the consequences of this systematic plundering which has been transformed into a serious financial crisis — and, apparently we are going to continue paying for it still longer.
The previous government had not wanted to stop the activity of banks that were in difficulties because of having been plundered, and instead preferred to transfer them to the Insurance and Property Registration Fund (TMSF). This organisation, which proceeded to liquidate certain banks under its control and sell off others, has merged those that could not find any buyers and extended the deadline for their liquidation.
The banks that were forced into bankruptcy by their own proprietors have cost the Turkish people $20 billion. The stolen money has never been recovered. The only one responsible for this is the BDDK — this body has never had the courage to demand an explanation or settlement from these proprietors and, by using the excuse of a gap in the law, have given a bonus to this robbery.
Look round you. See, for a moment, how these former proprietors of the plundered banks are living.
They continue to live in their country homes and their villas. All are still directing companies that they created after their banks went bankrupt. They have the use of company cars, yachts and aeroplanes. There has been no change in their style of living…
The BDDK must stop using this “secrecy” to hide the information it holds. The banking sector, that never hesitates to send in the bailiffs and demand colossal interests faced with a consumer who owes two pennies, should not remain silent in the face of this practice that endangers the whole banking system.
Turkey must not be a country in which “small” scale stealing is punished and while the “big” robbers are rewarded.