Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A coup, a papal visit and a farewell to the EU?

These are certainly "interesting times" for Turkey....
According to the American news magazine Newsweek senior Turkish military officers have expressed the view in recent weeks that while they would not want to see an interruption in democracy, "the military may soon have to step in to protect secularism.” President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and the new chief of the General Staff, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit have also issued stark warnings on the need to protect secularism in recent weeks.The Newsweek article, which is written by Hudson Institute expert Zeyno Baran, notes that top level military authorities in Turkey are worried that civilian control over the country's military, which would increase with the general EU accession process, would "produce an Islamic Turkey." I suspect Baran is right.

European Union term president Finland said it has failed in negotiations to break the Cyprus deadlock, which is threatening to derail Turkey's membership membership bid to the 25-country bloc.

The Pope has declined Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul’s invitation to dinner during his visit. Gul added that Prime Minister Erdogan would probably meet with the Pope before his departure to the NATO summit in Riga. Gul said there was a possibility for the prime minister to briefly meet the Pope at the airport….. In the run up to presidential and general elections in Turkey in 2007, Erdogan will be shying away from too many photo opportunities with the pontiff. His grassroots wouldn’t like it...Michael Rubin has recently noted of Prime Minister Erdogan that "...The Prime Minister embraced Hamas’ most unrepentant hardliner whom even the French wouldn’t go near and then met one-on-one with Fatih al-Hassanein, a Sudanese financier of al-Qaeda (Turkish officials present in the October 2 White House meeting say this was a topic of conversation with President Bush)..." Source Go here as well.

For his part, the Pope has gone all moderate and conciliatory.

UPDATE: A papal U-turn?
After arriving in Turkey, the Pope certainly seems intent on making gestures to appease the Muslim population. The Turkish prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, told a news conference after brief talks with the Pope that he had asked the pontiff to support Turkey's EU bid. Mr Erdogan quoted the Pope as saying: "We are not political, but we wish for Turkey to join the EU." Later, after meeting with Ali Bardakoglu, the Islamic cleric who oversees Turkey's religious affairs, the Pope sought to allay the anger he had sparked in earlier remarks about Islam, and said "Christians and Muslims belong to the family of souls who believe in one God,"
The Pope's endorsement of Turkey's EU membership bid was, to put it mildly, unexpected given the pontiff's previous statements on the matter. What is he up to?


The Vatican has been forced to put out a statement on the question of Turkey and the EU. It said: "The Holy See does not have the power or specific task, politically, to intervene on the precise point of Turkey's entrance into the European Union. It does not strive for it.

"All the same, it sees positively and encourages the path of dialogue and of [Turkey] becoming closer and integrated into Europe, on the basis of our shared values and principles."

So no U-turn then?


Serf said...

The Hamas thing confirmed for me what I had feared for a long time. Tayyip sees himself as a Muslim first and only. As such he fails to see beyond the fact that Hamas are an Islamic organisation, and notice that they are terrorists (an oversight that is extremely shocking from a Turk).

He is therefore a real and present danger for Turkey and its future.

Colin said...


Thanks for the useful information and excellent reporting.

istanbultory said...

"He is therefore a real and present danger for Turkey and its future."

My thoughts exactly. The upside of Turkey's EU difficulties are that the military will now have a freer hand to deal with Tayyip and his allies...And I would classify that as good news.

Ellee said...

I expect you to get an exclusive on this tomorrow, good luck!

Colin is right about the excellent and interesting report.

Anonymous said...

It is not just Turkey that would benefit from a period of Military Rule............

Colin said...


There are reports on German media about the Pope's visit which I can't find on English or Turkish websites.

After meeting the Pope at the airport, Erdogan told journalists that the Pope has said to him that he wishes Turkey to become an EU member, that he would support its accession and that Islam is a religion of peace.

Focus, Spiegel, Welt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Neue Z├╝richer Zeitung.

We might want to speculate why the Pope changed his mind and why the German media are so happy to report it.

With regard to the latter, a likely explanation could be that those who support Turkey's EU membership are eager to report that the problems have been solved.

With regard to the first, it is highly probable that the Pope's arms were twisted by pro-EU politicians (Romano Prodi?) similar to the methods employed for blackmailing Switzerland to pay a billion Swiss Franc to the EU according to Stefan Karlsson. Switzerland and the Vatican are completely geographically surrounded by and depend on EU states. Therefore, "the swiss will have to pay up a billion swiss franc in "protection money" to the Don Corleones of Brussells." And the Pope might have been forced to abjure like Galileo.

istanbultory said...

Thanks Ellie. Colin, this is what the Turkish media are reporting of the papal-Erdogan meeting. "I told the pope that Islam was a religion of peace and tolerance and he shared the same ideas," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a press briefing after meeting Pope Benedict XVI at Ankara airport.

Asked about the pope's attitude on Turkey's EU membership, Erdogan replied: "I said that I expected his support on membership and the pope responded, ’We are not politicians but would like Turkey to join the EU.’"

Stranger and stranger.As Cardinal Ratzinger, he said:
"...Turkey is founded upon Islam...Thus the entry of Turkey into the EU would be anti-historical."

Has the Pope perhaps undergone a miraculous conversion to Turkish EU accession? or Does he believe (as I do) that Turkey's chances of entering the EU are practically zero. Thus, the Pope is aiming to collect some good will in the Islamic world by appearing at a very late stage to support the accession of Turkey, which he doesn't believe will ever happen....whatever the case, the Pope has signalled a remarkable departure from his previous views.

Colin said...

Thanks, Instanbultory, for the news from the Turkish media. I was already wondering why I did not find any reports on Turkish internet sites.

"the Pope is aiming to collect some good will in the Islamic world"

Collecting some good will in the Islamic world at the cost of alienating his own followers by making a U-turn and what advantage would this good will have for the Vatican?

Maybe you are right but I still cannot see the logic behind it.

istanbultory said...

I am only speculating... but I truly believe the Pope has discounted the possibility of Turkey entering the EU and feels his followers are probably of much the same opinion. At the same time, it's difficult to describe how negatively the Vatican is viewed in the Islamic world. The Pope is clearly in bridge-building mode... but also doesn't want his efforts at developing relations with the Orthodox Church overshadowed by any arguments with the Muslim brotherhood.

Anonymous said...

Have just found your blog via the link from the blog of Graham Dines, the political editor of the East Anglian Daily Times. Check out Dines Days on www.eadt.co.uk/blogs

Why is the Pope saying sorry? He's just grandstanding like Blair and slavery - next he'll be apologising for the Inquisition and Blair will apologise to the familes of everyone the State has executed over the centuries!

Colin said...


May I ask whether you were the lead singer of the Burka Band with its hit The Burka Blue because some time ago you wanted to move to Turkey and wear a burka.

For your recollection, here the article Burka band is cult hit and part of the catchy lyrics: "My mother wears a burka, I must wear a burka too. We all wear a burka, we don't know who is who."

Voyager said...

At the same time, it's difficult to describe how negatively the Vatican is viewed in the Islamic world.

Must be terrible in view of the overwhelmingly positive view we in The West have of Islam and its wonderfully peaceful approach to discourse and debate.

If only we in Western Europe could treat Muslims with the same reverence and respect Christians enjoy in Turkey there would be no room for complaint.

Islam really does show the way to a multicultural, tolerant, and vibrant democracy - if only Christians could replicate the successes of Islam in tolerating other faiths our societies would be nuch the better

vikki said...

Of course Colin! I was the lead singer. How else would you have known if you were not one of the back up singers!

voyager, splendid post on the religion of peace.

Colin said...


Thanks for the confirmation. How did you know that I was one of the back up singer, because of the headphones?

I guess we should have a reunion with MI (the 2nd back up singer) for launching another hit with MI's (sorry voyager's) lyrics. i.e. "the way to a multicultural, tolerant, and vibrant democracy"

vikki said...

I thought that was you cos I heard your croacky note. Afterall "we all wear a burka, we dont know who is who"

BTW, voyager is definitely not MI...

Colin said...

BTW, voyager is definitely not MI...

Oh well, you had the change to get a glimpse of his face beneath the burka. I guess you must be right cos MI said that he is small whereas the second background singer was tall.

istanbultory said...

voyager is the chap we formerly knew as Rick who used to post so prodigiously at Cranmer's place.

Colin said...

That's possible because Rick and voyager have a certain resemblance in writing style, length of contributions, and personality.

However, I am wondering - although it really isn't a matter of importance - why two intelligent and fairly outspoken chaps with a love for social dominance never try to disprove each other views (e.g. at Brusselsjournal.com ) despite the fact that they are enjoying to prove that others are wrong. Both told us that they are writing books etc. Anyhow, both are very funny!