US embassy cable - 09ANKARA169

TURKEY TO CONTINUE ACTIVIST ROLE IN MIDDLE EAST; COUNTER TO IRAN

Identifier: 09ANKARA169
Wikileaks: View 09ANKARA169 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Ankara
Created: 2009-02-03 16:30:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PGOV PTER ENRG KPAL TU IZ IR IS
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
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DE RUEHAK #0169/01 0341630
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 031630Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8665
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC//USDP:PDUSDP/ISA:EUR/ISA:NESA// PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J-3/J-5// PRIORITY
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/425ABG IZMIR TU//CC// PRIORITY
RHMFISS/39ABG INCIRLIK AB TU PRIORITY
RUEPGAB/MNF-I C2X BAGHDAD IZ PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 000169 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT. FOR EUR/SE; NEA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/03/2029 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PTER, ENRG, KPAL, TU, IZ, IR, IS 
SUBJECT: TURKEY TO CONTINUE ACTIVIST ROLE IN MIDDLE EAST; 
COUNTER TO IRAN 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JAMES JEFFREY FOR REASONS 1.4(B,D) 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY: The GOT aims to continue to play an activist 
role in establishing peace and stability in its neighborhood 
as a foreign policy priority, in large measure because of a 
deep distrust and fear of Iran's exhibited malevolent 
influence throughout the region, according to senior MFA 
officials.  Whether discussing Iraq, Israel-Syria talks, or 
the Middle East Peace Process, a consistent theme of 
countering Iran's efforts to destabilize the region emerged. 
With Turkish politicians entering full campaign mode in the 
run-up to nationwide provincial and municipal elections at 
the end of March, MFA's diplomats have been working non-stop 
at damage control in response to public statements made by PM 
Erdogan and others uttered more with domestic politics in 
mind than how they are perceived in other countries.  MFA 
officials assure us Turkey remains fully committed to a 
strong relationship with Israel, support for 
intra-Palestinian rapprochement which can help contribute to 
the Peace Process, continued efforts to drive a wedge between 
Iran and Syria, and a continuation of the GOT's outreach to 
Baghdad and Erbil to strengthen Turkey-Iraq ties. 
 
2. (C) SUMMARY CONT.': In a subsequent conversation with the 
Ambassador, PM Foreign Policy Advisor Ahmet Davutoglu sounded 
generally similar notes -- see septel -- including on Iran. 
While also in damage control mode, however, he has a more 
optimistic view of the salvageability of groups like HAMAS 
and Hizbollah, as well as Syria, than do the realpolitik guys 
in the MFA.  END SUMMARY 
 
Turkey's Aim Remains Peace and Stability...and Countering Iran 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
3. (C) MFA Deputy U/S for Middle East Sinirlioglu and GOT 
Special Envoy for Iraq Ozcelik both told Ambassador in 
separate February 2 meetings that Turkey remains fixated on 
countering Iranian efforts to enhance its own influence in 
the Middle East by destabilizing the region.  Discussing 
Turkey's efforts to establish a cease-fire in Gaza and the 
January 30 incident at Davos involving PM Erdogan and Israeli 
President Peres, Sinirlioglu told us he and others at MFA 
have worked tirelessly to reassure the Israelis the 
fundamentally strong relationship between Turkey and Israel 
continues from a GOT standpoint, including in regular phone 
calls between Sinirlioglu and Israeli PM foreign policy 
advisor Shalom Tourgeman.  He noted MFA U/S Apakan has spoken 
with Israeli MFA DG Aharon Abramowitz as well and, in fact, 
Abramowitz has invited Apakan to visit Israel soon.  Since 
Apakan had visited Israel last, MFA intends to issue an 
invitation to Abramowitz to come to Ankara within the next 
two weeks. 
 
4. (C) Sinirlioglu refuted public criticism that 
anti-Semitism is on the rise in Turkey as a result of Israeli 
military action in Gaza, saying GOT officials have been 
careful to focus their criticism on Israel's actions in Gaza 
and not on the Israeli people, Jews in general, or to 
threaten the Turkey-Israel relationship.  Ambassador pointed 
out that to be an effective moderator or facilitator, one 
must be perceived as balanced by both sides in a conflict. 
PM Erdogan's strong language at Davos and statements by other 
politicians and in the media in Turkey in recent weeks call 
into question, especially in Washington, and presumably in 
Israel, whether Turkey can indeed fill that unbiased role. 
 
5. (C) Sinirlioglu noted that President Gul travels February 
3 to Saudi Arabia and will no doubt engage in a similar 
discussion with King Abdullah and other senior Saudi 
officials.  Pointing to impending provincial and municipal 
elections in Turkey in late March, he emphasized the need to 
keep statements made by Turkish politicians in proper context 
and urged that Washington continue to draw Ankara closer into 
peace process discussions to ensure the U.S. and Turkey 
 
ANKARA 00000169  002 OF 003 
 
 
remain on the same page.  Referring to a perception among 
Turkish officials that the Israelis seem to be "reserving a 
role for Egypt" in facilitating talks with the Palestinians, 
Sinirlioglu underscored Turkey does not want to "steal away 
Egypt's role."  Rather, the GOT only seeks to ensure 
reconciliation among the Palestinians, because without that, 
there is no hope for a comprehensive peace.  Therefore, the 
only option is to continue efforts to draw HAMAS into the 
political process, which can help to give Abu Mazen greater 
confidence that he can back up any deal he may be able to 
strike with Israel. 
 
6. (C) Abbas will be visiting Ankara February 6-7, according 
to Sinirlioglu.  The GOT's aim is to reinforce the need for a 
strong Palestinian Authority under the control of Abu Mazen, 
but HAMAS is a reality that will not disappear.  "We all must 
help the Palestinians find a way forward," he said.  Turkey 
supports Egypt's efforts to establish a new technocratic 
government of national unity with the support of both Fatah 
and HAMAS, leading to new elections and resumption of PA 
control over both Gaza and the West Bank.  Sinirlioglu 
admitted the GOT recognizes the negative role Iran plays in 
supporting the terrorist activities of HAMAS, saying, "No one 
knows Iran better than us."  He pointed to staged 
demonstrations in Tehran in recent weeks in front of the 
Turkish embassy, the first anti-Turkish when initial UNSC 
deliberations failed to bring about a cease-fire, and the 
second pro-Turkish in reaction to PM Erdogan's performance at 
Davos.  Sinirlioglu noted the Iranians will "try to exploit 
anything and everything."  The GOT remains focused on 
removing tools from Tehran's hands and is convinced the best 
way to do that is to continue to drive a wedge between Iran 
and Syria, without whose support Iran's efforts at 
destabilization would become far less effective. 
 
An Effort That Remains at the Core of Turkey's Iraq Policy 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
7. (C) Ozcelik continued a similar refrain, noting the GOT 
remains concerned about PM Maliki and the degree to which 
Iran can influence him.  Maliki's administration has been 
"troubled" in effectively governing and the Turks are afraid 
he will continue to ratchet up pressure on the Kurds in an 
effort to centralize power.  Ozcelik emphasized that Turkey 
strongly supports a unified Iraq under a central government, 
but wants to see that achieved through political consensus. 
The GOT is not certain Maliki is the person who can achieve 
that, but if not him, who can?  Noting the successful conduct 
of local elections on January 31 and previewing what might 
occur in eventual national elections, Ozcelik said the 
electoral map will inevitably look different and the GOT is 
closely watching to see whether Iranian influence will 
continue to grow or begin to wane. 
 
8. (C) Ozcelik indicated GOT officials are now looking at a 
possible visit by President Gul to Iraq in the first half of 
March.  During this initial visit, he will likely visit only 
Baghdad, reserving stops in Erbil, Kirkuk, and other regional 
cities for a future visit.  He noted Foreign Ministers 
Babacan and Zebari will also likely meet in late February or 
in the first week of March for the next meeting of the two 
countries' bilateral high level strategic cooperation 
mechanism. 
 
9. (C)  The GOT remains concerned about Turkish firms being 
excluded from potential energy deals with the KRG should it 
not at least initiate discussions with Erbil before Iraqi 
politicians come to agreement on a hydrocarbons law. 
Ambassador emphasized the USG view that any deals signed with 
the KRG will only make passage of hydrocarbons legislation 
less likely and will inevitably be declared null and void 
once such a law is passed.  Ozcelik believes deals struck 
with the KRG may very well be grandfathered in once national 
legislation is passed, but expressed understanding of the USG 
 
ANKARA 00000169  003 OF 003 
 
 
position, given the GOT had adhered to the same policy for 
the past six years.  He said Turkey will not be cutting a 
deal with the KRG on energy right now, though he did not 
promise there would not be discussions between Ankara and 
Erbil. 
 
10. (C) Ozcelik told Ambassador he will continue to push 
ahead with his attempt to coordinate GOT efforts in finding 
non-military ways to counter the terrorist PKK.  He noted he 
would be speaking later in the day with Deputy Chief of 
Defense Igsiz on the matter and would be reaching out to 
Massoud Barzani in coming days to express GOT concerns with 
his plan to convene a conference of Kurdish political parties 
and entities as a way to bring pressure to bear on the PKK. 
Ozcelik said Ankara does not want to see the tables turned on 
Barzani at the conference that would end up forcing his hand 
to support PKK policies and/or demands.  Such a result would 
seriously undermine the GOT-KRG rapprochement which Ozcelik 
has worked assiduously to build over the past year.  He also 
intimated that British Iraq Coordinator Frank Baker is 
playing an unhelpful role in pushing this conference idea. 
 
Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at 
http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turk ey 
 
Jeffrey 

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