‘Kurdish issue has reached final act,’ says politician

The Kurdish problem is in its final act, as both Turks and Kurds wants a peaceful solution, according to a prominent Kurdish politician. ‘The final act will have its ups and downs,’ says Kemal Burkay. The PKK’s resort to arms did not help but rather complicated the issue, says Burkay, adding that 30 years of conflict have not solved the problem
Kemal Burkay (R) came to Istanbul last July after 31 years of exile in Sweden. He visited Ankara and Diyarbakır, saying he could not recognize either of the cities, as they had become much bigger. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK
Kemal Burkay (R) came to Istanbul last July after 31 years of exile in Sweden. He visited Ankara and Diyarbakır, saying he could not recognize either of the cities, as they had become much bigger. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK

Turkey’s Kurdish problem has entered its “final act” because the desire to end the long-running issue via peaceful means is becoming stronger day by day, according to a prominent Kurdish politician who has returned to Turkey after 31 years in exile.

Even though the end is in sight, however, there are likely to be more ups and downs before an ultimate solution, Kemal Burkay, who favors a peaceful solution to the issue, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview this week.

Q: How do you evaluate the current situation in the Kurdish issue compared with the past?

A: There is progress when you compare it to the past. One should not underestimate it. From the days of there being no Kurdish question, we have come to a point of asking how we should solve the Kurdish question. But when you consider all the changes that are taking place in the world, one should not exaggerate the change. After all, I am over 70, I have fought for 50 years and [the issue] still hasn’t been solved.

There was a period of conflict started by the armed struggle of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) with devastating consequences.

Q: Some say that if the PKK had not resorted to arms, Turkey would not have accepted the Kurdish reality.

A: On the contrary, the PKK’s armed struggle made the issue much more complicated. Thirty years of conflict did not solve anything. Thousands of villages were depopulated. There was already a Kurdish awakening that started in the 1960s, even before the rise of the PKK. The Kurdistan Socialist Party won the municipality of Ağrı in 1979. Kurdish groups could have won all the municipalities in the 1980s if there had not been the military coup in 1980. We could have done it without using violence, through peaceful means. But the coup opened the way for the PKK.

Q: Did you suspect that the state was in secret talks with the PKK? Why do you think it stopped?

A: This [initiative] is right if it aims at finding a solution to the problem, but is will not be right if it aims to pacify the Kurds using [the PKK’s jailed leader, Abdullah] Öcalan. There was an intention to solve the problem in the AKP. But they were not properly prepared. And the opposition did not support them. The PKK and the BDP [Peace and Democracy Party] did not support them, and neither did the left. The left needs to leave this habit of tying everything to anti-Americanism.

Q: Do you have any suspicions as to the intentions of the government in talking to the PKK?

A: You cannot solve the Kurdish problem by just talking to Öcalan or the PKK. Of course you need to talk to the PKK to stop violence, because they are the ones holding the guns. But if the aim is to solve the problem, you can’t just do it by holding secret talks with Öcalan. He is a prisoner. Kurds need to be informed about these talks.

Q: But who should be the state’s counterpart then?

A: You don’t have to talk to Öcalan to know the demands of the Kurds. Kurds want equal rights. They want education in their own language; they want the right to self-government. We want the use of our language in the public sector. We want to live under the same roof of this state and for us, the solution is a federation. You don’t have to talk to Öcalan in order to recognize Kurds’ rights. If the state is looking for a counterpart, it should not be only the PKK, Öcalan or the BDP. There is HAK-PAR [Rights and Liberties Party], there is the group of [independent deputy] Şerafettin Elçi. There are other Kurdish intellectuals.

But the government can take unilateral action without having to talk to [a counterpart]. It will say it will start with education in mother tongues in predominantly Kurdish areas, it can say it will agree to local administrations. When this starts, then the weapons will go silent because the PKK cannot use weapons in such an atmosphere. Then there could be a general amnesty. Political channels will be opened. Kurdish politics will become normalized and in an election that you hold in such an atmosphere, you won’t just have the BDP, but other political groups.

Q: But the BDP won a significant portion of the Kurdish votes; for many, it is the legitimate representative of the Kurds.

A: It got these votes in an environment when other Kurdish movements are oppressed and where those holding arms control the masses. Neither the PKK nor the state is letting other Kurdish opposition groups emerge.

Q: Why do you think the state is adopting that stance?

A: The state used the PKK as a tool to control the Kurds. It used Öcalan as a tool as well. Recall what Öcalan said when he was captured; he said, “I am at the service of the state.” [Then-Prime Minister Bülent] Ecevit replied: “let’s not hang him, let’s use him.” The relationship with Öcalan developed on that understanding. The PKK and Kurds were taken under control. All groups, even the BDP, is under the pressure of the PKK.

Q: Have you been able to find room to maneuver since returning to Turkey in the summer after your exile?

A: Just like everybody, I am affected as well. But I don’t want to talk about myself. I want to be constructive.

Q: There seems to be a vicious circle: The state says violence must stop before it gives any concessions, whereas the PKK throws the ball back, asking for guarantees.

A: The PKK should unconditionally drop its arms. But this won’t happen just because I say it. But the state does not need to wait for the arms to be silenced to act.

Q: But the government doesn’t seem to be opting for that kind of policy when you look at the Kurdish Communities’ Union (KCK) arrests.

A: These arrests are wrong and they are negatively affecting the process. But there are reciprocal mistakes being made. The KCK is not a legal organization. There is no need for the KCK. You have the PKK on the illegal ground and the BDP on the legal ground so what is the KCK? Well, it is an organization to control the BDP. That’s wrong. On the one hand you are asking for democracy, on the other hand you are going to exert control over all the other legal groups through a organization you formed relying on armed force. But the government is making a mistake as well. While you are trying to bring the commander from the mountain down to the ‘plain,’ it is not realistic to push the structure onto the plain. The [KCK] is illegal, but it has not used arms.

Q: What is the government trying to do? What is holding up the government?

A: The government needs vision and courage. But does the government say it will solve this problem on the basis of equal rights? No, it is still not at that point. The government does not have the necessary courage. But I believe they have showed goodwill.

Q: Many feel deceived by the AKP, arguing that it started the so-called initiative to maximize its votes; do you also feel disappointed on this front?

A: Despite everything, I am still not disappointed. The AKP took well-intentioned steps. If these had been supported by the opposition, the government would not have stopped. But the opposition not only did not support the government, but they wanted us to be blind to all the steps they had taken in order to harm the initiative.

Q: Why do you think the PKK or the BDP did not support the government?

A: They did not support the Ergenekon case [an alleged shadowy gang accused of attempting to topple the government] despite the fact that they were its biggest victims. They did not support the referendum for constitutional changes. The PKK keeps talking about democracy, but it has never been democratic.

Q: Are you hopeful that rewriting the constitution will contribute to the solution?

A: It can contribute but it depends on how democratic the constitution will be. But I am not optimistic.

Q: What will happen now? What is your projection?

A: We are now in the final act. Both Turks and Kurds are tired of conflict and very uncomfortable with the bloodshed. The will for a peaceful solution is getting stronger and this desire will surmount all the obstacles, pacifying the circles that are making it hard to find a solution. Despite the voices for a military solution, the [support] for a peaceful solution in the grassroots of the BDP is getting stronger. I can’t give a timetable. But we are in the very last hurdles at a hurdles race. The whole process has had its ups and downs, so the final act will also have its ups and downs.

Who is Kemal Burkay?

One of the most prominent figures of Kurdish political movements, Kemal Burkay diverges from other groups by refusing to support armed conflict.

Born in the southeastern city of Tunceli, Burkay studied law at university in Ankara. He joined the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) in 1965, rising quickly to higher positions in the party. Following the military coup in March 12, 1971, he fled Turkey and came back in 1974 following a general amnesty. The same year he founded the Socialist Party of Turkish Kurdistan and became its secretary-general.

He fled Turkey in March 1980, before the military coup that took place in September. He was granted political asylum from Sweden, where he lived until his return last July to Turkey, following a direct appeal from the government.

“I have no complexes. I am saying here what I have been saying in the past,” he said of those who accuse him of being a tool of the government.

A writer and a poet, he has also translated several pieces from Kurdish to Turkish and vice versa. The lyrics of one of the songs of Sezen Aksu, one of Turkey’s best singers and composers, are from a Burkay poem.

Friday, October 14, 2011
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

Creating a positive European agenda for Turkey

Turkey is a key country for the European Union. It is therefore disappointing that there has been so limited progress in the accession process over the last year. This is a source of frustration to both sides, as we are insufficiently exploiting the strong political and economic ties that already exist between us. I think both of us would like to see better results and are interested in achieving more.


Turkey and the EU have much to gain through increased integration and dialogue. This is why we want to develop a renewed and positive EU-Turkey agenda. In my opinion, this agenda must consist of five different elements.

First of all, the European Commission is ready to work more intensively with Turkey on its domestic reforms. The EU accession process can offer strong transformative powers that have proved to foster reforms in Turkey. Turkey today is a more democratic country than it was ten years ago, thanks to its EU perspective.

Secondly, I hope that Turkey will continue its work on the alignment of laws with the European Union acquis. Not only will further adoption of the EU acquis increase the level of protection for all consumers and citizens of Turkey, but it also will allow us, once the political environment permits, to progress rapidly in the accession negotiations.

Thirdly, our new agenda should seek to maximise the potential of our economic relations. Of course, through the customs union we already have a deep economic relationship. The possibilities this offers to business in Turkey and the European Union are huge. Let’s have a look together at how we can deepen and expand our trade and economic relations.

Fourthly, travelling to Europe should be made easier. My colleague, Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström, and I are committed to work to further facilitate travel to the European Union for Turkish businessmen and students via multiple-entry and long-validity visas. We all agree how important this is. An important step would be that Turkey takes the necessary steps for the swift conclusion of readmission agreement related to illegal immigrants who transited through Turkey.

Lastly, I believe that we should strengthen the EU-Turkey high-level dialogue on foreign policy. This has proven a valuable forum to discuss our shared strategic interests, and is a tool that can bring further benefits to us both. Especially now, at a time where the stakes are so high in the region following the developments across Northern Africa and the Middle East, Turkey and the European Union need to support jointly the aspirations for democracy, human rights, stability and prosperity.

These five elements together make a strong EU-Turkey agenda, which would allow the European Union and Turkey to move closer together economically and politically for the mutual benefit of all our peoples.

Let me turn to challenges facing Turkey that I believe are currently blocking Turkey’s own development: constitutional reform, the Kurdish issue, and the Cyprus issue.

To bring real benefits to Turkey’s citizens, the comprehensive constitutional reform announced by Prime Minister Erdoğan after the elections in June needs to be inclusive, bringing together all political parties and civil society. The first steps, including the launch of a website to function as a forum for public contributions and the launch of an ad-hoc committee with equal representation of all parties in Parliament, are encouraging.

On the Kurdish issue, Turkey needs to push ahead with the democratic opening, which was announced in 2009 and raised great hopes for a peaceful and democratic resolution of this issue. The commission reaffirms its full solidarity with Turkey in the struggle against terrorism.

Finally, a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue, on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation and in line with the relevant UNSC Resolutions and the principles on which the EU is founded, can only be found with Turkey’s support. A settlement would be more than worth the effort: it would contribute to stability in the Mediterranean, boost trade and growth in Cyprus for the benefit of both communities and give a new, fresh momentum to Turkey’s EU accession negotiations.

After a year in which expectations have not been fully met, this is an ambitious agenda for the European Union and Turkey together and for Turkey alone. However, it is also a realistic agenda which, if it is met, will bring real benefits to all of us and move Turkey closer to its objective of EU membership.

* Stefan Füle is commissioner for enlargement and the European Neighbourhood Policy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Radar to lure Iran to table, says Kissinger

NATO’s missile radar will draw Iran back to the negotiating table for talks on its nuclear drive, says prominent former US diplomat Kissinger

Kissinger says ‘Turkey will play an important role regarding Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.’ AFP photo
Kissinger says ‘Turkey will play an important role regarding Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.’ AFP photo

A sophisticated NATO radar system deployed on Turkish soil would force Iran into restarting negotiations on its nuclear program, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has said while also praising Ankara’s role in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria. “The radar system will be installed against a [possible] nuclear threat from Iran,” Kissinger, a highly influential former diplomat, said in response to a question by the Hürriyet Daily News.

“But it will also serve as an instrument to bring Iran [closer] to constructive negotiations with the West,” said Kissinger during an investment conference held by private equity giant TPG Capital yesterday.

When the agreement to deploy the missile shield was announced last month, U.S. officials described it as “the biggest strategic decision between the United States and Turkey in the past 15 or 20 years.” “Turkey and the United States have always been [on the same wavelength], taking the same side,” said the 88-year-old Kissinger, a master practitioner of “Realpolitik” – diplomacy based primarily on power and practical considerations.

The radar system developed by the U.S. will complement 24 interceptor missiles to be based in Romania and will be installed at a military base in Malatya, about 700 kilometers from the Iranian border. A similar system has been operating in Israel for the past three years. “There is no doubt that Turkey will play an important role regarding Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya,” Kissinger said, noting that Turkey “has been acting in a constructive way” toward Syria. He said he supported Turkey’s increasingly confrontational tone in warning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on his regime’s conduct against its own people.

Kissinger, who served as the secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, likened the “Arab Spring” to a tsunami, after which the difficulty of establishing highly representative governments floats to the surface.

“When a revolution occurs, different parts of society with different values and backgrounds come together and bundle into a huge tsunami,” Kissinger said. “When the waves disappear and the water recedes, however, lingering problems come to the surface.”

‘Egypt may stabilize easily’

In a country like Egypt, which has a strong tradition of statecraft, it might be “easier to stabilize,” said Kissinger. “However, if the country never had rules as a real state throughout its history, [the task] becomes harder.”Kissinger described Turkey as a country “among the rising stars of the world.” Since Ottoman times, the country has always had “a great influence” on many countries, he said.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Gökhan Kurtaran
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News

[NEWS ANALYSIS] Turkey looks east as EU accession prospect recedes

Cold-shouldered by the European Union it wants to join, NATO member Turkey is turning east politically and economically for the respect it feels it lacks in the West.

A rising Muslim democracy, Turkey began accession talks with Brussels in 2005, but progress has been painfully slow, hobbled by tensions between Ankara and EU-member Greek Cyprus as well as opposition within France and Germany.


On Wednesday, the European Commission said no progress was achieved in the last year, raising new doubts over whether Turkey will ever become a full EU member.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned that a vigorous Turkey would not wait at the EU’s doors “like a docile supplicant” and slammed European societies as “near geriatric”.

His bitter mood is shared by many ordinary Turks who say they feel increasingly unwelcome in Europe.

Ecevit İyit, 38, said he had applied four times for a visa to join his wife in Germany, where she works at a sausage factory in Stuttgart and lives with their three young children.

“I waited 11 months after one application before they rejected it,” said İyit as he waited at the gates of the German embassy in Turkey’s capital Ankara. “They don’t want us. Otherwise they would have taken us ages ago.”


Turkey’s foreign policy has been West-oriented for years, revolving around its EU application and NATO commitments.

But as its EU prospects recede, it has become increasingly independent-minded and keen to increase ties with the Middle East and North Africa — a trend that has broad implications for the EU and the United States.

“There hasn’t been a pan-European conversation about how on earth to deal with a Turkey that’s not just assertive but is now threatening what to some Europeans are core interests and may pursue actions that could lead to conflict,” said Daniel Korski, of the London-based European Council on Foreign Relations.

“There was a compromise before where those who want Turkey to be part of the EU and those who don’t could agree we need a strategic dialogue with Turkey because it was becoming increasingly assertive and important. But some Europeans are now beginning to worry about the point of strategic dialogue with a country that’s moving beyond the pale of normal behavior.”

The shift is turning Turkey into a model in the Arab world at a time when the region is undergoing sweeping change while US and European influence appears to be waning.


During a September tour of Arab countries, Erdoğan was feted by adoring masses, portrayed himself as a Muslim leader, fustigated Israel and championed a Palestinian statehood.

Turkey is now a stable democracy and one of the world’s most vibrant economies, which has given Turks a new sense of confidence, in contrast to the existential malaise plaguing Europe due to the financial crisis.


A survey on transatlantic trends by the German Marshall Fund think-tank published in September showed that a majority of Turks considered the Middle East more important to the country’s economic interests and security than the EU.


“We shouldn’t join the EU. They should just reject our application now,” Hasan Filanci, a 25-year-old baker. “Europe is the sick man, write that down.”

Despite waning domestic support for EU membership, about half of Turkey’s trade is with the bloc and more than 75 percent of foreign direct investment comes from the EU.

After the release of the Commission’s report, Ankara said on Wednesday “full membership to the union is Turkey’s only goal”.

Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet once compared Turkey to a galloping horse with its head on the continent of Europe and its body on the Asian continent. But heads can turn.

In recent months, Turkey has raised concerns it is changing its soft power for a more confrontational policy, upsetting even it staunchest supporters.

It has sent warships to the eastern Mediterranean to challenge EU member Greek Cypriot and Israel’s offshore gas drilling projects, and has warned it would freeze ties with the EU if Greek Cyprus assumes the bloc’s rotating presidency next July.


The Commission on Wednesday said it was concerned about tensions between Ankara and Greek Cyprus and urged Turkey to refrain from any threats or actions that could undermine relations.

As EU talks drag on, Turkey has failed this year to open even one new chapter, or policy area, of the 35 that a candidate country must complete before it can join the bloc.

Since membership talks started, Turkey has opened 13 chapters. Most of the rest are “frozen” by political disputes between Ankara and EU capitals.

For years, the argument in favor went that EU-driven political and economic reforms offered a policy anchor for a NATO country that borders Iran, Iraq and Syria and with a history of political instability and financial crises.

The EU prospect reassured investors and brought prestige to Turkey, which has access to European markets and has expanded business ties in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

For its part, EU reforms allowed civilian governments in Ankara to break the grip of the conservative army and judiciary.

Today’s Zaman columnist Amanda Paul said Turkey should resist actions that could harm longer term interests, which lie in a strong anchoring to Europe.

“Turkey will never walk away. It has absolutely no reason to walk away. Even though there are no negotiations going on, Turkey still hopes for economic stability and bringing in foreign investment and that added extra sparkle,” Paul, who is also expert at the Brussels-based European Policy Centre said.

“Turkey is a crucial as an energy corridor and for other energy projects, and the EU does need to main strong links with Turkey.”





12 October 2011, Wednesday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH REUTERS,

No Arab Spring, says US intelligence analyst

The Arab Spring did not take place, according to a US-based intelligence analyst, who said there has been no regime change in the Middle East except Libya. ‘Not every bid of unrest is a revolution and every revolution is not democratic,’ says George Friedman, adding that Turkey is the leader in the region and old powers don’t like rising powers, and that though the US currently needs Turkey because it leads the region, in the long run Turkey will become more powerful and relations will sour
Turkey is very careful not to punch above its weight, says George Friedman (R) adding “one of the reasons it doesn’t engage is because it manages its strength. Turkey is testing its strength.” DAILY NEWS photos, Hasan ALTINIŞIK.
Turkey is very careful not to punch above its weight, says George Friedman (R) adding “one of the reasons it doesn’t engage is because it manages its strength. Turkey is testing its strength.” DAILY NEWS photos, Hasan ALTINIŞIK.

The Arab Spring did not happen, according to George Friedman, the head of global intelligence firm STRATFOR Institute, because there has been no regime change in the Middle East. Turkey is the leader of the Islamic world but it is still not a mature power, said the author of “The Next 100 years,” in which he predicted that Turkey will rise to be a great power. “Turkey is still very cautious and it is testing its strength,” he told the Daily News during a recent interview in Istanbul.

Q: You recently said Turkey was a power but not a mature one. How so?

A: A mature power has institutions for managing international systems. The U.S., at the outset of World War II, did not have intelligence service [and] very few trained diplomats. Turkey is more advanced than that, but it does not have a diplomatic corps that is matched to Turkey’s responsibilities in the world. It does not have Portuguese speakers, experts on Mexico; it takes a while to develop this. It takes a while to develop intelligence services. The foreign minister said Turkey has opened 21 embassies in Africa, but who mans them? Who are the Africa experts?

Q: You are warning Turkey that it is not rewarding to be a big power.

A: America is the major power. We are not loved, we are resented. It is the fate of countries that take leading roles. They will disappoint some countries, anger other countries. Turkey is not yet experienced with the sense of injustice of trying to do good but being claimed to have done badly.

Q: Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu would have objected to the comparison with the U.S. and said Turkey was out there with the best of intentions. Why shouldn’t we be liked?

A: You will be liked. But it is easy to be liked when Turkey refrains from acting. But when Turkey has to act it does not act because it decides (when) to be an aggressive power. It will be facing a crisis along its southern border, then the crisis will spill over to Turkey; that is just an example.

Q: In the next 100 years, will the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) “zero problem” policy be sustained?

A: It is a transitionary moment. I have always said that Turkey will be a great power; I did not say Turkey is already a great power. AKP has two policies: One is to be a major power in the Islamic world and simultaneously to avoid engagement. This is precisely the foreign policy it should have now. But 10 to 20 years from now, it will not be able to maintain that. Because as you send out your businessmen, you would have to have political influence to guarantee their security, their interests, etc. Soldiers are one way to interfere in a country; businessman can interfere, too. So the process will draw you into engagement. There will be a moment where Turkey’s interests will seriously diverge from those of another country and that will be the time Turkey will have to decide to act or suffer the harm. It will not happen because Turks decide to be aggressive; it will happen because they will be pursuing their interests. And that will lead to criticism; don’t forget that when you act, you make mistakes.

Q: Everyone is criticizing Turkey now for its problems.

A: Problems are not determined by whether Turkey wants to have them; it has to do with the dynamics of the region. These problems arise not because Turkey is creating them. Turkey has a policy of not creating problems.

Q: Looking at your writings, it seems that you are not changing your projections due to Arab Spring.

A: No, because the Arab spring did not happen. No regime fell except Libya and that’s because of NATO. In Egypt, one general is replaced by four generals. In Syria, Bashar al–Assad is still in power. There is tremendous excitement but there is very little action, very little outcome. Not every bit of unrest is a revolution. Every revolution does not succeed. Every revolution is not democratic, and the democratic ones can elect (rulers like) Ayatollah Khomeini. There is talk about massive democratic uprising; first of all it was not massive in Egypt – most of the country was not affected. Second, those who rose up did not have a common idea of what should come next. Third, they did not overthrow the regime. They got rid of Mubarak and that was what the army wanted, too.

Q: You have previously claimed that Turkey should leave its EU bid and lead the Islamic world. You maintain that autocratic regimes will continue in the region but Turkey has opted for democratic change.

A: Unless Turkey wishes to invade countries and impose regimes on it, it will work with the regimes that are there. Turkey would have to be insane to join the EU. It is the leader of the Islamic world. It has the largest Muslim economy, it has by far the largest military force, and its economy is so dynamic that it is creating a vortex in the region. The best thing that happened to Turkey is the fact it was not admitted to the EU.

Q: How does Turkey’s present situation fall into the realities of the Arab Spring and the call by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for secularism, for instance?

A: It told us more about Erdoğan and the AKP than the effect it made in North Africa. That he choose to make that statement was important. But there is a huge gap between voicing an opinion and taking an action and responsibility. Turkey is in a position of transitioning from the time when it was a weak power, and all it had was its opinion to offer to a time when its opinion matters because it is followed by the expectation to act.

Q: You also argue that old powers don’t like rising powers. Can we assume therefore that the U.S. doesn’t like Turkey?

A: In the long run there will be bad feelings. But in the short run, the U.S. needs Turkey as a stabilizing force in the Middle East. It no longer wants to play a role for the time being. Turkey also wants stability in the region but does not have the power yet to create that stability, it will reach out to the U.S and we will redefine the relations. But down the road as Turkey becomes more powerful, the U.S. will become more frightened and the relationship will change again.

Q: On strained relations between Israel and Turkey, is it a prelude Turkish-U.S. contention?

A: With Turkey taking on its current position, its relationship with Israel has become a liability. The level of visibility cuts against other interests. But lately we’ve seen signs that Turkey is having closer relations with the U.S. Israel is close to the U.S. therefore Turkish-Israeli relations will be more constrained.

Q: You don’t foresee a conflict between Turkey and Israel?

A: I don’t think it is possible. Turkey does not have the military to project force against Israel. It does not want to be in Syria, let alone engage Israel. And Israel does not want to engage Turkey. You are not in a situation of divorce or hostility. You are in a situation which certain relationships continue, but in which public diplomacy shifts to where Turkey can take advantage of other relationships.

Q: Is Turkey punching above its weight?

A: This government is careful not to do that. One of the reasons it doesn’t engage is because it manages its strength. Turkey is testing its strength. You see that in the case of its policy toward Libya and Syria.

Who is George Friedman?

Dr. George Friedman is the founder and chief executive officer of Stratfor, a global intelligence and forecasting company. He is the author of several books, including New York Times bestsellers, such as “The Next Decade” and “The Next 100 Years,” in which he predicts that Turkey will be a great power; as such, he has advised global players to learn Turkish.

A very popular keynote speaker, Friedman is in high demand at conferences and industry-specific events for private organizations and government agencies. He was recently in Istanbul to moderate the energy simulation of Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) that was also attended by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

“We have taught the same courses,” he said about Davutoğlu, adding that the latter was one of the most interesting of the many foreign ministers that he has met.

Friedman lives in Austin, Texas.

Friday, October 7, 2011
Barçın Yinanç
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News

Role model Turkey

Turkey is a democratic country. Over the past almost 90 years we could not manage to define what we understand from “secularism,” but Turkey is a country with an overwhelming Muslim population and “secular” and “democratic” governance. Turkey is the only island of “secular democracy” in the Muslim world.


With “secularism” the Turkish state, at least so far, understands controlling the practice of Islam through a state agency. That Religious Affairs Directorate or “Diyanet,” has a budget and organization bigger than six combined ministries. After all the great openings of the current Islamist government Diyanet “improved a lot,” it is reported that it will soon be elevated considerably in the state protocol as well, and has become the fundamental tool in persuading the people of this land to convert to Sunni-Hanefi, a certain sect of Sunni Islam. While Sunni-Hanefi believers are given a “more equal” status than the rest of Muslim folk, particularly of the Alevis, the minute non-Muslim sections of the society expect “equal treatment” from the state, believing that “secularism requires the state to remain at equal distance from all religions.”

For the “democracy” assumption, there are of course some who still believe in the “rule by people for the people” principle. However, they are in minority. The current prime minister, for example, believed for some time, nowadays he claimed to have changed that perception, that democracy is a wagon to be traveled on and left behind on reaching the final destination [Islamic governance]. Some other politicians considered it a tool to come to power, fill the coffers of her/his political clan at all costs to the state and resign to Bosporus mansions. Some believed it was not just a word but a web of norms, values and of course rights. In the 1970s and 1980s they were imprisoned and they long have abandoned those goals and have become rich businesspeople. There are some idealists, or lunatics perhaps, who still hope that this country will eventually become a democracy.

Democracy, of course, cannot be achieved in the absence of either the principle of equality or the supremacy of law. It appears as a farce indeed to talk about a democratic country that might be a model for its neighborhood if in that there are “more equals” than others or where a prime minister can boast of having “my justice” or “my judges, my prosecutors” like “my policemen, my teachers, my civil servants” or whatsoever and a prison was converted into a gigantic concentration camp to isolate the “not so welcome critics,” potential adversaries, patriots, Kemalists and of course the retired soldiers (those active officers arrested are at a military prison) in small cells.

Turkey is a sovereign country. At least, many people, including the writer of this article, assume it as such. Yet, this sovereign country is now at a jaw-jaw stage, thank God not at a war-war affair, with a small country of the region over its arrogance, spoiled behavior and indeed barbarism over members of another nation that it has been occupying its land. The tall, bold and bald ever-angry prime minister aspiring to be an absolute ruler in this model “democracy” for the Muslim nations, has been very angry with that small neighbor. He has been rightly demanding it apologize and agree to pay compensation for an act of piracy and murder of nine Turkish citizens in international waters on the Mediterranean. Yet, when the Americans wanted to deploy a radar system – that the angry tall man originally opposed – to fend of possible Iranian missiles aimed at that small arrogant state, this country has become the host of the system protecting that arrogant neighbor. Well, this might be “real politik” but it stinks.







Thursday, October 6, 2011

How has Turkey become a global actor?

If anyone had argued a decade ago that Turkey would become an influential reference in the Middle East in the near future and that it would move forward to becoming a strong partner of the West despite disagreements with Israel, perhaps everybody would have laughed at that person.

However, the two fundamentals of the ongoing state of affairs have been laid down since early 1990s. Simply put, in order to become a global actor, you need a globalized world. If you are not powerful enough to globalize the world through your own choices, you’ll have to wait for this happy coincidence. On the other hand, globalization of the world would not suffice for a country to become a global actor. That country needs to globalize itself first. This is possible through having of a global identity and association with the “proper” mentality that the world is subscribed to in that period.

All these conditions have been fulfilled gradually over the last two decades for Turkey. It short, it became evident that the unipolar world that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union could not be ruled by the US. The emerging multipolar world made different parts of the world politically important for the sake of global stability, bringing some nations that had remained on the periphery in the past as well as their issues to the political stage. This created an opportunity for Turkey to become a regional actor. However, another process of change in Turkey also offered an opportunity for this country to conduct politics based on a broader perspective. This change started with the move of the criticism of modernity from the West to the East. After a lengthy period of admiration for the Occident, for the first time, people in Turkey realized that the Western countries were unable to solve some of their problems and that they fell short for creating the world of the future. This enabled the people in Turkey to overcome the feeling of worry and depression, and it were the religious Muslims who welcomed this new state of affairs because the secular segment of society created its identity through Westernization and the only identity that would serve as alternative was based on Turkish nationalism. However, Turkishness was not a global identity. On the other hand, the Islamic circles found themselves in a rather more advantageous situation because Islam is global and enabled the politicians of Turkey to have a say in the world.

Besides, the religious people of Turkey were moving towards this position by relying on this own internal dynamics. A process of intensive deliberation and self-evaluation has taken place in the aftermath of the military intervention on Feb. 28, 1997 and the view that the Welfare Party, regarded as the Islamic representative of the time, pursued improper policies gained credibility. In other words, they realized that the Islamic politics of the future could not be based on religious conservatism and opposition to the West and that it needed to incorporate universal norms. The criticism of modernity reminded that these universal norms should not be derived from the West alone. In other words, Islamic sources were also functional to achieve this.

In this way, Turkey’s Sunni Muslim religious actors have taken some radical steps. While preserving their religiosity, they also became secular on a mental level. This not only led to the separation of religion and politics, economy, culture and ethics, but also enabled development of a new perspective to reassess the history and the state. The outcome of this multilayered dynamic was an unexpected situation: the Turkish Islam synthesis that has been promoted as a state strategy after 1980 collapsed. The separation of piety and secularism set the Islamic identity free and encouraged particularly the young generation Muslims to integrate the universal values with their beliefs.

The result was the birth of an Islamic outlook with global significance. This ensured the separation of a group of politicians from Welfare Party to found the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and to transform this party into a vessel that “rides the waves” of the social energy of Turkish society. This led to a combination that has never been experienced before and was surprising for those who were unfamiliar with Turkey: a political movement that was based on Islam as a global identity, but that kept a certain amount of distance between Islam and the social spheres, ranging from politics to ethics, and one that filled the vacuum between ethical criteria such as service and honesty.

More interestingly, the basis of the said ethics was not only Islam, but also the common heritage of mankind. Islam was only perceived as the perfect carrier of this heritage.     

Turkey was lucky and fortunate because this radical transformation ran parallel to  globalization and the world found the change in Turkey meaningful. The rest was the ability of the AK Party to use this opportunity, and it did.





06 October 2011, Thursday

Rousseff: Brazil, Turkey both emerging as world powers

Called one of the world’s strongest women, Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, has sworn to build upon the transformation her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, brought about in Brazil and to see the country possessing South America’s largest economy become a bigger political power on a global scale.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

Rousseff is visiting Turkey for the first time since she assumed office at the beginning of this year, as she takes up foreign relationships from where da Silva left off and pushes through with strategic partnerships in even the furthest corners of the world. Turkey and Brazil, long-time friends and newfound allies, have been in close diplomatic contact with each other since the beginning of the Lula era, and Rousseff is here to ensure the ties remain close.

The fact that the countries have so much in common has been a reason for interesting partnerships arising between Turkey and Brazil, with the two ending up forming a bond on the margins of the international community in many cases, such as that of Iran’s uranium enrichment project, and they frequently compared notes regarding the Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East. Now, at a time when world opinion is divided over the future of the Arab Spring countries and of Palestine, Rousseff argues, Turkey and Brazil yet again have had similar ideas for bringing peace to one of the world’s least stable regions.

Rousseff suggested in an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman that Turkey and Brazil are both emerging world powers with a growing importance in global politics and that they share the common notion of integration and peace. She said Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors policy” parallels Brazil’s regional policy, as both countries aim at establishing integration, peace and stability with their neighbors in their respective regions.

Rousseff suggested in an interview with Today’s Zaman that Turkey and Brazil are both emerging world powers with a growing importance in global politics and that they share the common notion of integration and peace. She said Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors policy” parallels Brazil’s regional policy, as both countries aim at establishing integration, peace and stability with their neighbors in their respective regions.

Turkey and Brazil, both multiethnic and diverse countries, Rousseff stressed, see eye-to-eye not only in foreign policy but also in the way they handle their economies. The Turkish and Brazilian foreign trade volumes are not far apart, although Brazil’s figures surpass those of Turkey, and some domestic goals the countries have in common are to increase the efficiency and reach of social services, such as healthcare and education, as well as all other infrastructure.

As the first woman to open the UN General Assembly, Rousseff also staunchly supports equal opportunities for women in politics. Acknowledging that women are still the people struck hardest by poverty, Rousseff also added that violence against women is an issue Brazilian domestic policy is now concerned with and that the country has established special police stations for women and passed legislation to prevent violence against women before it happens, measures Turkey is also making an effort to enact.

Politics aside, Rousseff is also here to attend the Friday seminar of the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON), where she will address about 1,000 businesspeople from all over Turkey. The business seminar, Rousseff says, will be an opportunity to intensify commercial ties between the two countries, which have been growing steadily since 2002, with the flow of trade between the nations expected to surpass $2 billion by the end of 2011.

As chief of staff during Lula’s tenure and a political activist against oppressive military rule as a young woman, Rousseff has claimed the world’s attention as a figure of resistance and power. Having risen to heights most have not even imagined, Rousseff is a woman not afraid to break with convention as she follows the path towards a more democratic, equal and developed Brazil.

Madame President, you have claimed a lot of firsts since you entered the political scene: the first woman president of Brazil, its first woman chief of staff, the first economist to be president of Brazil and lately the first woman to kick off the UN General Assembly sessions. We can see how empowering your example is for all women, but what is your feeling about all that? What is the world’s utmost challenge for a strong, dedicated woman?

In spite of notable progress in the last decades, gender inequality is pervasive throughout the world. Women are still the ones most affected by extreme poverty, poor healthcare and education and violence. Their wages are on average much lower than those of men, and they are underrepresented in decision-making positions both in the political sphere and in private enterprise.

We have, therefore, a particularly high stake in building a more peaceful and just world. To that end, we must fight to ensure equal social and political rights to all women in every society.

In Brazil, we have been working actively to make this ideal come true. We have created a ministerial-level Secretariat of Policies for Women. We have established specialized police stations for women and passed special legislation to prevent and punish violence against women. And women are given priority in social programs, such as those that provide cash [incentives] and housing [loans].

How will your tenure change Brazil? Former President Lula was regarded as a milestone. How do you plan to build on that foundation?

President Lula’s main achievement was to change the way Brazilians were governed, leading us to believe more in ourselves and in the future of the country. Being a part of his government was one of the most vigorous political experiences of my life.

My mission is to consolidate this transformation and to advance along the path of economic growth with distribution of income. Since the beginning of the year we launched several initiatives to that effect, among which I would like to highlight “Brasil sem Miséria” (Brazil without poverty), a comprehensive national poverty alleviation plan that aims to lift more than 16 million Brazilians out of extreme poverty through cash transfer initiatives, increased access to education, health, welfare, sanitation and electricity, and productive inclusion — and “Brasil Maior” (Bigger Brazil) — a new industrial policy that provides incentives, financing and tax relief for national industries sensitive to the strengthening of Brazil’s international competition.

Despite the thousands of kilometers between them, Turkey and Brazil have become incredibly cooperative in many fields, most notably in foreign policy. What has caused this shift? What, in your opinion, has caused Brazil and Turkey to develop such similar visions and perceptions of the world?

Turkey and Brazil occupy positions of growing importance in international affairs. We are both included in the category of emerging countries, and in fact our economies are relatively comparable in many respects — $300 billion in foreign trade for Turkey in 2010; $380 billion for Brazil in the same period. We have established positions of preeminence in our respective regions, through democratic and inclusive models of growth. Turkey´s “zero problem” policy with its neighbors can be translated, mutatis mutandi, into Brazil’s vision of a fully integrated, peaceful and prosperous South America. Brazil has been a driving force in promoting bi-regional dialogues between South America, on the one hand, and Europe, Africa, Asia and the Arab world, on the other hand.

Turkey and Brazil have expanded the range of their foreign policy, and, in particular, they have enhanced their relationship with Africa, through economic cooperation and humanitarian assistance.

We have similar views on the limited scope for using force as a means of resolving conflict in today’s increasingly complex and integrated world.

Turkey is where the West meets the East, and where both continents encounter Africa. Its cultural diversity and multiethnic society echo those of Brazil. We are both “melting pot” societies, and the many commonalities that can be established between our nations bring us together naturally.

In recognition of this, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed a Plan of Action for the Brazil-Turkey Strategic Partnership during his visit to Brazil in May of 2010. The plan provides an institutional framework for cooperation between the two countries in nine broad fields of common interest. This partnership is built on shared values, such as the full respect for human rights and the promotion of sustainable development with social justice.

When Turkey and Brazil stood up to the rest of the world and signed a declaration with Iran, people thought that was a crazy foreign policy alliance. How will commonalities between Turkish and Brazilian diplomacy unfold in the future?

Brazil-Turkey relations are going through a very dynamic phase, marked by a series of high ranking bilateral contacts and a rapprochement at the level of business and tourism, thanks, in part, to the establishment of direct regular flights between İstanbul and São Paulo.

We are ready and willing to take on a more active role at the decision table within global governance structures, including those of the multilateral financial agencies. We share many views with respect to the international financial crisis in the G-20. And we have similar positions with respect to the situation in the Middle East, supporting the formal recognition at the UN of the State of Palestine, a necessary step towards the two-state solution, which will bring lasting peace to one of the least stable regions of the world.

The pursuit of peace and security is not the exclusive responsibility of only a handful of powerful states, but a commitment of the international community as a whole, in accordance with the agreed principles, objectives and mandates of the United Nations. In this spirit, Brazil and Turkey have legitimately acted in coordination with one another with a view to finding a balanced and fair solution to the issue of uranium enrichment in Iran.

What is Brazil’s take on Syria? What is your personal view on the current turbulence in Syria and other Arab Spring countries, based on your own experience of political conflict? Having been on both sides, do you feel for the resistance, or the administrations in power?

Brazil is the adopted homeland of many immigrants from the Arab world, who came to our country in search of peace and opportunity — like so many other immigrants from different parts of the earth. Brazilians of all origins wholeheartedly support the search for an ideal that belongs to no culture, because it is universal: the ideal of freedom.

All nations must, together, find a legitimate and effective way to aid those societies that call for reform while keeping their citizens in the forefront. We vehemently repudiate the brutal repression of civilian populations. Yet we remain convinced that for the international community, the use of force must always be a last resort.

Both Brazil and Turkey have emerged as rising global powers in recent years. How do you think that could translate into economics and trade between the countries? Have you set any trade goals for the countries in the near future?

Since 2002, the flow of trade between Brazil and Turkey has been growing systematically. It has expanded considerably, having exceeded $1.6 billion in just the first half of 2011. It will possibly reach and even exceed the range of $2 billion by the end of the year.

Brazilian exports to Turkey products such as iron ore, soybeans, wheat, coffee, tobacco and wood, among others. From Turkey we buy automotive accessories, iron bars, nuts, machine tools, fertilizers, tractor accessories, transformers and dried apricots, among other products. We have a very diversified trade, but it certainly has room for improvement.

We need to increase reciprocal investments. Groups such as Sabancı Holding and Aktaş in Brazil, and Petrobras, Embraer and Metalfrio in Turkey, are leading the way, and I am sure other important companies will follow. Turkey has a good legal structure and customs policy, and various export processing zones to promote joint ventures. The signing of the bilateral agreement to avoid double taxation, in December 2010 in Brazil, should encourage reciprocal investments. The opening in 2009 of direct flights between İstanbul and São Paulo has also proved a useful tool to expand trade and tourism between the two countries.

You will be visiting the TUSKON forum on Friday Oct. 7, where almost a thousand businesspeople will be waiting to hear you speak. What will be your core message? What are the fields in which you think Turkey and Brazil have the greatest potential to increase their economic cooperation?

The business seminar sponsored by TUSKON provides an opportunity for the intensification of economic and commercial ties between the two countries. The Turkish market offers very interesting opportunities to the Brazilian private sector in fields such as oil and energy, transport and commercial aviation, food and beverage, infrastructure and construction, information technology and communication, and chemicals.

Today Brazil offers great investment opportunities arising from the decision to expand and modernize the infrastructure, in particular with a view to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. There is also enormous potential for the exploitation of tourist activities.

You have put up a fierce fight throughout most of your political life, and now that you are head of state you have reached heights many people do not dare imagine. Which feels more satisfying or productive to lead, a political movement or a country?

It is, of course, a great honor to have been elected by the majority of my fellow citizens to be the president of Brazil. But, quite frankly, I do not feel, on a personal level, that my experience as a young political activist has been any less fulfilling than my tenure as head of state. In these two stages of my life I have fought hard — as I have as a civil servant in the intervening years — for a more democratic, equal and developed country.




05 October 2011, Wednesday / CEREN KUMOVA, ANKARA

Can state-sponsored patents generate innovation?

China’s economic success in the last three quarters is mainly due to cheap labor and export-oriented economies of scale. However, the leadership is quite aware of the unsustainability of this approach, and as wages are rising in the country, they are working to increase the value chain of domestic production.

Their foreign technology transfer strategies and highly incentivized, state-sponsored private sector research and development support have started to pay dividends. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Chinese domestic patent filings increased from 15,600 in 1999 to 122,000 in 2006. An average 35 percent annual increase is not a bad accomplishment. This rate is 6 percent in America, 5 percent in South Korea, 4 percent in Europe and 1 percent in Japan.

In “Is the Dragon Learning to Fly? An Analysis of the Chinese Patent Explosion” (University of Oxford, CSAE Working Paper 2011/15), Markus Eberhardt, Christian Helmers and Yu Zhihong investigated the drivers behind this patent explosion. Based on the firm level data, a very tiny number of companies generates the bulk of these patents: 75 percent of the domestic patent filings in China are registered by 10 companies that are operating in the ICT (information and communication technology) business; 85 percent of the Chinese patents registered in the US are also registered by the same 10 companies.

For these companies, a substantial share of the patents is new product innovation despite their low-tech character. If you check the next 10 year national patent development strategy, the quantity gets more attention than the quality when you check the measurable targets and metrics they would like to achieve. However, focused efforts on ICT, energy technologies, especially wind and solar, make the Chinese companies quite competitive in their own field.

Chinese firms’ ability to stay close to the technology frontier of the world is praised by the same authors. However, their contribution to this frontier is a mixed bag and a work in progress. The funds and staff they allocated to the transformation from imitation to innovation can be easily observed.

Another interesting development I would like to share with you is the business share of the national research and development (R&D) expenditure in the world. The US is the leader in innovation, and the US private sector is the main driving force of the innovation culture of the US. If you check Asian success in technology and innovation over the last decades, you can easily see a similar structural development as well.

In the 1980s the Japanese government was widely seen as the master practitioner of industrial policy based on technology and patents. But we did not see Japanese software giants or information technology companies focused on innovation. Japan, Korea, the US and Germany all have more than a 70 percent business share in national R&D expenditures. Most of these countries became patent generators.


China as well, changed domestic dynamics considerably and increased the business share of R&D expenditures from 49 percent to 72 percent from 1999 to 2006. State sponsored but privately held technology companies are definitely generating a more innovative private sector.

There are lessons for many emerging economies from these statistics. Take Turkey, for example. Turkey is allocating substantial funds for R&D via the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) and other state-funded institutions. The target R&D expenditure in Turkey is expected to be 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) soon. This share almost doubled in the last seven years from 0.48 percent to 0.85 percent. But, these fund allocations seem to lack the business and entrepreneurship focus. Universities and academics are getting the biggest chunk of this spending. The business share is stagnant at around 40 percent. This is one of the lowest shares among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, as can be seen from the following table taken from the paper written by Eberhardt, Helmers and Yu.

China’s state sponsored innovation and technology promotion activities turned out to be successful in the last decade after they started to generate new funding mechanisms for startups and the private sector.



04 October 2011, Tuesday

Is ‘United Europe Project’ decomposing?

Everybody is aware that the final target of the Common Market when established in 1957 was to reach a political union through an economic cooperation among the member countries. There were many reasons for that desire such as to convert Europe from a historical battle ground to a land of peace and to create a third world power against the dominance of the United States and the Soviet Union, after the Second World War.

Prof Dr. Erdoğan Alkin
Prof Dr. Erdoğan Alkin

This desire was of course rational but may be unintentionally to take the United States as a model was illogical. Although most of the intellectual elite and prominent politicians reject it today, it is widely accepted that this was the intention of the fathers of the project and the impression created by every step taken from the beginning was that the final target was to establish a ”United States of Europe.”

Why this idea was illogical is not difficult to discuss. Historical facts, geostrategic positions, traditions, culture and human factors were so different from each other to create a similar political entity in Europe looked like the unproductive efforts of the alchemists to obtain gold from different materials.

In addition when the leaders of the union began in haste to accept new countries that have different structural problems as full members and again tried in haste to establish a monetary union among the old and the new members that had different monetary and fiscal policies, these attempts increased the differences between the EU and the U.S. Today as these two regions face different kinds of crises justifies that it is almost impossible to establish a political union in Europe when even economic unity is on the verge of collapse because of the contradicting national interests and different political agendas of the leaders.

During the recent crises, Europe’s inability became obvious to create a common understanding about the seriousness of the sovereign debt problem and to bring a sound solution to prevent the collapse of some national economies. Not only economic policies but also political ideologies and problems are so different from each other that even before the last crises harmonization of the several codes that must shape a common legal framework became impossible. And just in the middle of serious crises and may be on the eve of a new one, the leaders of Europe still seem to ignore the future of the union for the sake of their political future.

However the problem is that the European crisis is no longer a regional one. It is becoming a serious blow to the world economy as a whole. And it also is becoming step by step not only an economic problem but also a political as it involves the governments. In other words the European debt crisis points now to the political weakness of the eurozone. Some people now began to think that Greece became a scapegoat and its problem is only the tip of the iceberg, the larger part of which hides under the surface of an ocean of insensitiveness.

One last note: Leaders of Europe ask for stronger austerity measures from Greece. Naturally their collocutor is the Greek government but only the people will sacrifice more. It must be remembered that Greece is a democratic country and the government cannot impose easily any measure against the people’s will. Otherwise a “Greek Spring’’ becomes inevitable and before an expected economic default and unexpected political turmoil comes.




Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hürriyet Daily News