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WikiLeaks: 2009-08-17: 09ISTANBUL323: PM Erdogan Raises Hopes of Minority Community

by WikiLeaks. 09ISTANBUL323: August 17, 2009.

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 09:05 AM UT


Viewing cable 09ISTANBUL323, PM ERDOGAN RAISES HOPES OF MINORITY COMMUNITY

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09ISTANBUL323 2009-08-17 13:54 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Istanbul
VZCZCXRO7176
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHIT #0323/01 2291354
ZNY CCCCC ZZH ZDS CTE SVC RUEHSD 5530
P 171354Z AUG 09
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9126
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000323 
 
SIPDIS 
 
C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (ADDED CLASSIFIED BY AND REASON) 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/17/2019 
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV TU OSCE GR
SUBJECT: PM ERDOGAN RAISES HOPES OF MINORITY COMMUNITY 
 
ISTANBUL 00000323  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
Classified by: DPO Win Dayton for reasons 1.4 (b), (d) 
 
1. (SBU) Summary.  On August 15, in an unprecedented event, 
Prime Minister Erdogan spoke to 150 business, community, and 
religious leaders during a lunch on Buyukada Island, also 
attended by the Ecumenical Patriarch.  Prominent human rights 
lawyer Kezban Hatimi, the CHP Mayor of the Princes' Islands 
Mustafa Farsakoglu, and Minister for European Affairs Egemen 
Bagis organized the event.  Consulate General Istanbul's DPO 
and Political Officer also attended. The PM's remarks focused 
on the importance of a broader understanding of Turkish 
citizenship and the "democratic opening" initiative that will 
include several short and long-term steps to be revealed in 
October.  Erdogan broadened the definition of what was 
earlier considered a Kurdish package to a democratic package 
for all Turkish citizens in a speech that many considered 
positive and bold. In addition to the major minority 
religious leaders, the Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, 
State Minister Faruk Celik, Minister of Culture Ertugrul 
Gunay, Minister of Education Nimet Cabukcu, and Minister 
Egemen Bagis were in attendance.  End Summary. 
 
Broader Democratization Initiative 
---------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) Erdogan's speech focused on the need for a broad 
initiative to enhance democracy for all of Turkey's citizens 
of all ethnicities and religions, saying that "this package 
will comprise the rights of all 71.5 million Turkish 
citizens. Everyone will benefit from this package in line 
with the constitutional principle of equality."  He 
reminisced on playing soccer with his Armenian and Greek 
"brothers" when he was younger, stressing the broad ethnic 
and religious definition of Turkish citizenship.  Erdogan 
recalled the "three red lines" for his administration that he 
laid out eight years ago: he would discourage any nationalism 
based upon region, ethnicity, or religion.  He closed his 
speech with a brief overview of the infrastructural 
investment made in the southeast and the wealth of resources, 
like tourism, that Turkey can continue to develop that would 
lead to a better life for all Turks.  The AKP is currently 
surveying political, business, and civil society actors of 
all sectors in the formation of its democratization package 
it says it will release in October.  In daily Today's Zaman's 
August 17 write-up on the lunch, it reported that the reform 
package would be strategically released prior to the European 
Union's progress report in November, with planned 
implementation by January 2010. 
 
Expectations and Skepticism 
--------------------------- 
 
3. (SBU) Invitations for the lunch went out only the day 
before leading island residents and many in the audience to 
speculate about Erdogan's intentions and potential speech 
topic.  Island residents, not traditionally supporters of 
AKP, were skeptical about Erdogan's intentions and the heavy 
security posted at the port and near the Anatolian Club's 
entrance.  The Ecumenical Patriarch shared with us prior to 
the Prime Minister's arrival that he had great hopes for the 
lunch and Erdogan's speech, and other contacts noted that 
they anticipated remarks about the opening of Halki Seminary. 
 In addition to the Ecumenical Patriarch, Syriac Orthodox 
Metropolitan Yusuf Cetin, Armenian Archbishop Aram Atesyan, 
Jewish Community President Sylvio Ovadya, and Syriac Catholic 
Monsignor Yusuf Cag were in attendance.  Chief Rabbi Isak 
Haleva was unable to attend because the lunch was held on 
Shabbat. 
 
Prime Minister Meets Patriarch, Visits Greek Orthodox Sites 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
 
4. (SBU) While the Prime Minister did not mention Halki in 
his remarks, he did meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch and 
representatives of the Greek Orthodox community at St. 
George's church and the Buyukada Orphanage for two hours 
after lunch. A representative from the Ecumenical 
Patriarchate, Father Dositheos, shared that Erdogan and the 
Ecumenical Patriarch had a private conversation in which the 
Patriarch voiced the Greek Orthodox community's concerns. 
Another contact from the Patriarchate told poloff that 
Erdogan's visit to the Greek religious and community sites as 
a "good positive, almost tangible step that had never 
happened before in the Prime Minister's tenure. It really is 
quite something." 
 
Reaction to Speech and Event Positive but Hesitant 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
 
ISTANBUL 00000323  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
Classified by: DPO Win Dayton for reasons 1.4 (b), (d) 
 
5. (C) Several of those in attendance at the lunch were 
impressed by the Prime Minister's visit and content with the 
content of the speech, but felt left empty-handed.  Two 
journalist contacts said they were happy with "all this talk" 
about the democratic opening but were doubtful anything 
substantive would come of the movement given the lack of 
action.  Two other contacts, one active in interfaith 
cultural planning and the other the Greek deputy principal 
officer, said they were heartened and encouraged by this 
"brave new tack in Erdogan's approach to working with all of 
Turkey's citizens."  Influential columnist Semih Idiz from 
daily Milliyet commented, however, that Erdogan still has to 
prove that he is not just another populist politician. "While 
doing this, he has to consider the political risks awaiting 
him and proceed despite those. Erdogan says important things 
but we are still not convinced that he could deliver those. 
Time will tell."  Columnist Yusuf Kanli in Hurriyet Daily 
News on August 17 considered the meeting to be a major step 
in the right direction and "good news because the 'democracy 
problems' of this country are not limited to the complaints 
of the ethnic Kurdish people." On August 16, independent 
daily Taraf referred to the meeting as "historic" and 
reported optimistically on the hopes for positive next steps 
following the speech.  Conservative daily Zaman also reported 
on the meeting, noting only that "many things will change in 
our country." 
 
6. (SBU) Comment.   The Prime Minister's acceptance of an 
invitation to speak at a lunch hosted by a slew of CHPers on 
Buyukada attended by leaders of the religious minorities in 
Turkey was a surprise to many in attendance.  His discussion 
of the Kurdish initiative and a basic "redefinition" of the 
traditional understanding of Turkish citizenship to embrace 
minorities and provide equal democratic rights to all would 
have been unlikely only a year ago. Jews and Christians 
constitute less than two percent of the Turkish population. 
By marketing an inclusive interpretation of the initiative 
directly to them, Erdogan may hope to generate favor among 
their supporters in Greece, the EU, Israel and the United 
States. End comment. 
DAYTON

 



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