Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Obama's Ideal Partner: Turkey

The Hill
by: Joshua W. Walker, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Transatlantic Academy in the German Marshall Fund, and Truman National Security Fellow

President Obama laid out his new Afghanistan strategy on last week by ordering an additional 30,000 US troops to the country. While the majority of the analysis in Washington has centered on the level of US forces, the President emphasized that the “burden is not ours alone to bear.” Yet the reality is that this international coalition is waning, not surging, and is in desperate need of a regional champion that can serve as a model partner for the US in Afghanistan. Obama’s ideal partner is Turkey.

Turkey has the second largest army in NATO, is part of almost every European organization, chairs the Organization of Islamic Conference States, is a UN Security Council member, is a member of the G-20, and is one of the few examples of a functioning Muslim-majority democracy in the Middle East. Having once contributed the third highest number of troops to the mission in Afghanistan, the Turks now are taking command for the second time and have recently doubled their troop levels to 1,600. With 2.5 million soldiers, strong Transatlantic and Muslim credentials, Turkey is an underutilized ally that Obama would be wise to actively engage.

The President should begin that process through a personalized request to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is visiting the White House today, Monday December 7. Highlighting the Turks’ considerable accomplishments and potential in Afghanistan would encourage Turkey to take a more active leadership role in the region. By playing to the Turks’ newly discovered self-confidence, the President can transfer critical responsibility to an ideal partner that is poised to play an increasingly important regional role for many years to come. Not only will enhanced US-Turkish cooperation serve the interests of Afghanistan but it is also a win-win for America and Turkey.

Link to Article

Friday, November 20, 2009

Building a bridge between Native Americans and Turkey

Hürriyet Daily News


A delegation of Native American scholars currently visiting Turkey plans to recommend the country as an academic-exchange destination following discussions with Turkish universities this past week. Turkish-Americans and Native Americans have much to learn from each other, says Lincoln McCurdy, the president of the Turkish American Coalition, which organized the exchange
A group of Native American scholars came to Turkey last week as part of an effort to boost university relations and create future student and faculty exchanges between North American and Turkish schools.

The two cultures have many things in common and have an opportunity to share these experiences, according to the visiting Native American delegation hosted by the Turkish Coalition of America, or TCA.

“I have never been to Turkey before – it was one of those places I had seen only on the map. This has been a wonderful experience for me,” said Evelina Zuni Lucero, who teaches creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico.

“Many Native American students are willing to come to Turkey. We are interested in non-Western cultures, particularly Middle Eastern ones, because we really know very little about them,” added Lucero, a Native American from the Isleta/Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo.

“As soon as I return to the U.S., I will make a presentation at my university about my experiences here and look for ways to arrange possible exchanges,” said Valerian Three Irons, a scholar from South Dakota State University.

He added that because most Native American students are from low-income families, he will try to arrange scholarships for them to receive education in Turkey.

Three Irons, who has a mixed heritage from the Mandan, Hidatsa, Crow and Cree nations, said he would arrange a summer-school program at the university so students can experience living with Native American families on reservations and see everything that happens in the community. The program would allow these visitors to see more than most tourists, he said.

According to Three Irons, who works with Turkish schools such as Bahçeşehir University on these exchanges, there are more than 700 Native American communities and each one has a unique religion. He said these communities like the idea of an exchange of ideas between nations because it is very different from their past experiences of conquest and exploitation.

Some exchanges between universities have already started with the TCA invitation to the Native American scholars.

Willard Sakiestewa Gilbert, an education professor at Northeastern Arizona University, will teach at Bahçeşehir University for one term. Gilbert said his home university has started a global initiative to develop more exchanges and that Turkey could be one of the partners in these efforts.

According to TCA President Lincoln McCurdy, the group has additional bridge-building projects involving Turkey and various American communities, including African-, Hispanic-, Bosnian-, Albanian- and Macedonian-Americans.

“Turkish-Americans have still not yet learned [how] to get involved in the political system in the United States, but they can learn a lot from Native, African- and Hispanic-Americans who have been successful after all the struggles to get politically involved,” said McCurdy.

He added that Native Americans can be inspired by the history of the Turkish Republic to rebuild their identities and maintain their heritage while modernizing.

According to McCurdy, the group is also working on future projects to increase business relations between Turkey and American communities.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Turkish Cultural Foundation Introduces Turkish Artists at SOFA

The Turkish Cultural Foundation is to proud to present the works of Turkish artists Ebru Dosekci, Emel Vardar, Suleyman Saim Tekcan and Ebru Yilmaz at the Sculpture Objects and Functional Art (SOFA) Fair in Chicago on November 6-8, 2009.

SOFA Chicago features 68 prestigious galleries from 12 countries and is expected to be visited by over 35,000 visitors, including art collectors, museum and gallery curators. The Fair is respected for presenting a wide variety of modern art, contemporary designs, decorative and functional art, as well as designer jewelry. The Turkish Cultural Foundation has been sponsoring Turkish artists' participation in the SOFA fairs in Chicago and New York for the past three years and is the only Foundation participating in this international art exposition.

To learn more about SOFA, click here.

The Turkish Cultural Foundation's showcase of Turkish art toward at SOFA reflects the Foundation's mission to expand international opportunities for Turkish artists, as well as promote the finest examples Turkish modern art.

For more information, visit www.turkishculturalfoundation.org

Monday, October 26, 2009

Turkey's Rich History Attracts Film Director

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
Hartford Courant

October 25, 2009

Born in England, Alan Parker knows a thing or two about traveling. The acclaimed director of "Evita," "Angela's Ashes" and " Mississippi Burning" has vacationed around the world. But ask the 65-year-old what his most memorable trip was, and he'll answer, " Turkey." That is where the director filmed part of his controversial 1978 film "Midnight Express." The Blu-ray version of the classic movie is now available ( Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and includes some of Parker's observations and photographs from the filming.

Q: What is your favorite vacation destination?

A: I love places like Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Venice, Dublin, Marrakech, Berlin and Leningrad. But visiting Turkey was an experience. It's a modern world mixed together with ancient history. If you're interested in history, how could you not want to visit Troy, Ephesus and Gallipoli? The food is very good there, but go easy on the national drink, raki. It's 45 percent proof, so add lots of water.

Q: How do you try to fit in when you're a tourist?

A: Smiling a lot always helps. English will get you by, unless you're really off the beaten track. Always remember that raising your voice will not help them understand any better. If you want one Turkish word, then "thank you" might go a long way: Teh-shek-kewr-eh-deh-reem.

To be honest, the story of "Midnight Express" wasn't too popular in Turkey when I first visited, so I was a low-key traveler with my hat pulled down over my face, clicking away with my camera. But I was just fascinated by the place. Istanbul has been the meeting point where East touches West for centuries, and you can feel the energy of this cultural collision just walking through the city. When I went to scout in Turkey before making the film, the country had an edgy, somewhat scary but exotic feel that had nothing to do with any European city I had visited.

Q: What observations have you made about American versus European travelers?

A: I think Europeans tend to travel more than Americans. After all, in the time it takes to travel from Los Angeles to New York, the same journey in Europe would take you through 20 countries.

Q: When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A: Camera, notebook, iPhone, lots to read and Zantac. It's amazing how little you actually need if you analyze it. On the plane, I used to give myself a hernia with my heavy carry-on bag containing dozens of scripts and books to read, and I never touched them. An iPod and one light paperback is all you need on a plane. The best advice about bags is never to have bags too big or too heavy that you couldn't carry them yourself in an emergency.

Q: What is your worst vacation memory?

A: When "Midnight Express" came out, it didn't go down too well in Turkey, and I was on a list of undesirables. But Turkey now has a thriving tourist industry, and my children have had wonderful holidays there.

Link Here

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2 American masters topics for seminar

The Washington Times
September 28, 2009

Two American masters -- self-exiled intellectual and author James Baldwin and "Record Man" Ahmet Ertegun -- will be the topics of discussion at Georgetown University on Oct. 5 when Magdalena J. Zaborowska of the University of Michigan and Georgetown history professor Maurice Jackson, a jazz specialist, lead a seminar titled "African American-Turkish Connections Through the Arts."

The seminar -- set for 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Copley Formal Lounge and co-sponsored by the Turkish Coalition of America, the Institute of Turkish Studies, Howard University and Georgetown -- will look at the lives of two arts masters who were born as their homelands emerged from World War I and reborn as post-World War II America grappled with the meaning of civil rights and civil liberties.

Mr. Baldwin, a native New Yorker who lived in Istanbul and elsewhere in Europe for decades, once proclaimed that Turkey "saved my life" because of the freedoms he lived and breathed there but was denied as a black man in America. In the meantime, Mr. Ertegun, who grew up in Washington and whose ambassador father opened the family home to blacks who entered through the front door, was becoming a prolific arts entrepreneur whose love of music eventually lead to the formation of Atlantic Records. The label's hit artists included Ray Charles and the Clovers.

"TCA is proud to sponsor this program that highlights the shared history of Turkish Americans and the African-American community in D.C.," TCA President Lincoln McCurdy told The Washington Times. "The legacy of Ahmet Ertegun of breaking down racial barriers through music should inspire all Americans. Additionally, James Baldwin's works and his courageous stance on gender, race and sexual equality should remind us that local activism and the arts have always been close together in African-American communities, that they have always had a transnational and global dimension."

Said Ms. Zaborowska, author of "James Baldwin's Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile," "Baldwin's claim, [that] Turkey 'saved my life,' referred to the freedom he felt in Istanbul from racial and sexual oppression, the freedom that transformed him and his writing as a black writer, novelist, playwright and civil rights movement activist."

Link to Article

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Turkish group reaches out to Armenian-American students

September 15, 2009
McClatchy Newspapers

By Michael Doyle

WASHINGTON -- New scholarships will enable Armenian-American students to study in Turkey, a gesture prompted by diplomatic progress made by two long-feuding countries.
The scholarships for 100 American students of Armenian descent will finance a semester at any Turkish or Turkish Cypriot university. The Turkish Coalition of America is offering the $2,000 scholarships in hopes of changing minds.

"We hope to encourage dialogue between Turks and Armenians, so that future generations won't have the burden of this animosity," coalition president Lincoln McCurdy said Monday. "The shared history of both cultures has been overshadowed by hostility for far too long."

The scholarships could prove particularly enticing in regions like the San Joaquin Valley, home to tens of thousands of Armenian-Americans. California State University, Fresno, hosts both an Armenian Studies Program and the nationwide Society for Armenian Studies, which spans many campuses.

Each year, roughly 10 Fresno State students graduate with a minor in Armenian Studies, and dozens more take history, arts and language courses through the program.

But the new scholarships also provoke questions in some Armenian-American circles, as do the broader talks now under way between Turkey and Armenia.

The two countries have been at odds for nearly a century over events between 1915 and 1923, when by some estimates upward of 1.5 million Armenians died during the final years of the Ottoman Empire before Turkey was founded. The Turkish government blames the deaths on civil war. Armenians call the deaths genocide.

"There's always skepticism, because of Turkey's attitude in the past," noted Barlow Der Mugrdechian, director of the Fresno State Armenian Studies Program. "Until Turkey recognizes the [Armenian] genocide, there's always going to be skepticism."
Der Mugrdechian said he would need to learn more about the scholarship's details before he could evaluate it.

More broadly, though, he noted that San Joaquin Valley Armenian-Americans have concerns that the Turkish-Armenian diplomatic breakthrough announced recently was accomplished in part through trading away a formal Armenian genocide recognition.

On Aug. 31, following negotiations brokered by Swiss go-betweens, Turkey and Armenia unveiled a roadmap toward mutual diplomatic recognition. This includes six weeks for parliamentary consideration, followed by opening of the Turkey-Armenia border within two months.

The protocols include establishing a joint historical commission that will presumably be genocide-oriented, though it is described in a round-about way.
Armenian-American organizations and their Capitol Hill allies have long pushed for an explicit congressional Armenian genocide resolution.

With the help of successive U.S. presidents, fearful of the diplomatic consequences, Turkish officials have resisted the genocide resolution efforts.

The Turkish Coalition of America was founded in 2007. It sponsors educational and other programs boosting Turkey, including the trips to Turkey sponsored for members of Congress and staff and scholarships for students.

The Coalition offers more information at www.turkishcoalition.org/.

Monday, September 14, 2009

TCA Position on the Turkey-Armenia Dialogue

The Turkish Coalition of America welcomes the initialing of two important protocols between the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia, which lay out a framework and time table for the two governments to establish diplomatic relations and develop bilateral relations.

TCA recognizes the United States Administration’s and President Obama’s personal commitment to normalizing relations between Turkey and Armenia and to supporting dialogue between Turks and Armenians. In this context, TCA calls upon Congress to lend its unambiguous support to the ongoing process. We appeal to members of Congress interested in Turkish-Armenian relations to play a constructive role in advancing the goals of peace and stability in the region, as well as dialogue and harmony between Turkish Americans and Armenian Americans.

There are great benefits to be gained for generations to come if Armenians and Turks are encouraged to increase economic and political cooperation and rediscover their deep cultural ties, derived from a thousand years of peaceful coexistence.

TCA strongly believes that Turkey and Armenia can indeed look to the future and leave assessments of their tragic history and mutual suffering to historians and other qualified experts. In this context, TCA reiterates its strong support for an international commission of authoritative specialists with access to all relevant archives, including those of Armenian organizations that remain closed today. We see such an effort as the fairest and, indeed, the only method for assessing the past, which will pave the way for reconciliation between the two people, in lieu of politically charged legislative or executive declarations by third parties. This initiative enjoys the strong support of the Turkish American community and was voiced to President Obama in a February 2009 letter, signed by 50 Turkish American organizations nationwide.

While resolving the outstanding issues between Turkey and Armenia will certainly improve regional conditions, TCA also calls on all interested parties to reinvigorate their efforts to end the illegal Armenian occupation of Azerbaijan's territory and end the plight of nearly one million refugees in Azerbaijan. A just and lasting solution to this conflict is as essential to peace and stability in the region as any element of the recent Turkey-Armenia protocols.

Finally, the Turkish Coalition of America extends its hand of friendship to all Armenian groups who wish to work together to rediscover the bonds of centuries old kinship between the Turkish and Armenian people. We take pride in announcing a TCA grant for one hundred scholarships for American college students of Armenian descent for a semester-long study abroad program at any Turkish or Turkish Cypriot university.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Turkish Coalition of America Announces $100,000 Grant to Chaldean Federation of America

In an effort to alleviate the suffering of thousands of Iraq’s war torn and displaced Chaldean Persons in Turkey, the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) www.tc-america.org and the Chaldean Federation of America (CFA) www.chaldeanfederation.org will hold a signing ceremony for the $100,000 TCA humanitarian assistance grant to the CFA. The ceremony will be held at the Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield on Wednesday, September 2, 2009, at 7:00 PM. The club is located at 5600 Walnut Lake Road.

Monsignor Francois Yakan, Vicar of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Turkey and Mr. Erol Dura, a board member of the Turkish Chaldean-Assyrian-Syriac Humanitarian Organization (KASDER) will also sign on receiving this humanitarian award for their organization being selected as the facilitator and provider of award funds to these displaced persons. CFA and KASDER agreed to allocate 100% of the grant funds for the intended humanitarian relief; no overhead cost will be deducted. The local Chaldean Assyrian Association and community has played an invaluable role in implementing this aid program in addition to their existing efforts which have sustained the most pressing needs of the refugees for a considerable time.

“The Chaldean Federation of America is grateful to the Turkish American Community for the well thought and just in time humanitarian aid grant towards the immediate needs of the thousands of displaced Iraqi Chaldeans scattered throughout Turkey. CFA will continue to work with TCA to ensure adequate humanitarian relief and protection to those who need it the most,” said Joseph T. Kassab, Executive Director of CFA.

“The Iraqi refugee crisis continues to be one of the world’s most pressing humanitarian concerns. The work that the Chaldean Federation of America is doing to serve this vulnerable population is of critical importance, and helps contribute to the overall stability and security of the region,” Congressman Gary C. Peters, who represents Michigan’s 9th Congressional District which includes the Chaldean Federation of America’s national headquarters in Farmington Hills and is home to tens of thousands of Chaldean-Americans. “I extend my gratitude to the Turkish Coalition of America for providing this grant, and look forward to working with both of these organizations to help address the needs of Iraqis refugees and internally displaced people.”

“I thank the Turkish Coalition of America for providing financial support to one of the largest Chaldean populations in southeastern Michigan,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (MI-13). “This donation to the Chaldean Federation of America illustrates the positive impact that America’s ethnic communities can have on improving the lives of people in the United States and abroad. I applaud both organizations for working together to assist those in need.”

“There are hundreds of thousands of Iraqi minorities who fled from violence and threats on their lives in Iraq, only to find they are unable to support themselves and their families in host countries where they live as refugees,” said Congressman John Dingell (MI-15). The partnership between the Turkish Coalition of America and the Chaldean Federation of America, which will provide assistance to displaced Iraqi Chaldeans in Turkey, is a much needed lifeline for this vulnerable population. As a Representative from a Congressional District with a high proportion of Iraqi refugees resettled in the United States, I have seen first hand that the U.S. cannot simply rely on the generosity of groups like TCA and CFA. The U.S. must lead by example, and immediately implement a comprehensive plan to address the Iraqi refugee crisis.”

“TCA is proud to make this donation to the Chaldean Federation of America in an effort to help alleviate the suffering of displaced individuals,” said Lincoln McCurdy, President of the TCA. “It is our hope that this effort will continue our efforts to build bridges between communities and further understanding between cultures.”

TCA and CFA will continue to promote their relationship to their respective communities and the general public in the U.S. and Turkey to provide the best possible comfort to the displaced and the vulnerable Iraqi Chaldeans in Turkey.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Armenia, Turkey move towards diplomatic ties

YEREVAN (Reuters) - Armenia and Turkey said on Monday they would complete talks in six weeks and sign an accord on re-establishing diplomatic relations after almost a century of hostility.

The neighbors have no diplomatic ties, a closed border and a history of mutual distrust stemming from the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One. Turkey rejects allegations that the killing of Armenians was genocide.

The two countries announced in April that they had agreed a plan for normalizing relations, but gave no details. Diplomats said it included the reopening of the border and establishment of diplomatic ties.

Monday's joint statement, issued by the foreign ministries of Armenia and Turkey and mediator Switzerland, said they would begin "internal political consultations" on protocols to establish diplomatic relations and develop bilateral relations.

"The political consultations will be completed within six weeks, following which the two Protocols will be signed and submitted to the respective Parliaments for the ratification on each side," the statement said.

"Both sides will make their best efforts for the timely progression of the ratification in line with their constitutional and legal procedures."

Armenia has been pressing for concrete progress since the April announcement, and President Serzh Sarksyan is due to attend the return leg of a World Cup qualifying football match between the two countries in Turkey in October.

Turkey closed the frontier in 1993 in solidarity with fellow Muslim Azerbaijan, which was fighting Armenian-backed separatists in the breakaway mountain region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Sarksyan has said he will not travel to the football match, the first leg of which Turkish President Abdullah Gul watched last year in Yerevan, unless the border has reopened or there are at least clear signs it is about to re-open.

But since the April announcement, Turkish government officials -- faced with a backlash from Azerbaijan -- have said the border will not re-open until Armenia makes concessions on Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey seeks to carve out new niche in global fashion industry

August 31, 2009
Associated Press

ISTANBUL: Turkey is seeking to carve out a new niche in the global fashion market by promoting its dynamic generation of young designers.

With a solid reputation for textiles and production for big international brands like Gap and Dolce & Gabbana, it sees its home-grown creativity as the best strategy to combat the threat to the sector from China and the Far East.

‘Our target is to make Istanbul one of the top five world fashion capitals, alongside Paris, Milan, New York and London.’ Hikmet Tanriverdi, the new chairman of ITKIB, the body representing manufacturers and designers told AFP.

Tanriverdi was the prime mover behind the just-ended Istanbul Fashion Days, the first event to present designers and brands under one roof to invited international press and buyers.

The initiative has enthusiastic government backing, with good reason: 55 percent of Turkey's exports are to Europe, of which 82 percent are in the apparel sector.

Minister of State for Foreign Trade Zafer Caglayan said Turkey was already ‘an address for good quality clothing’ but needed to develop strong brands with wider recognition.

He was optimistic about the sector's future, while frustrated at delays in Turkey achieving its goal to become a full member of the European Union.

‘When it does, the EU's border will touch Asia. Turkey is a bridge, an excellent corridor between the East and West. It is only four hours by plane to more than 50 countries — a quarter of the world's population and a quarter of the world's economy.’

While Turkey's clothing sector had been hit by the global recession, the effect had been mitigated by the falling exchange rate of the local currency to the euro, he said.

As to competition from cheaper Asian imports, he told AFP he was confident: ‘There are international trade laws which must be respected. I do not see China as a threat. I see China as an opportunity; in fact I am flying there tomorrow at the invitation of the prime minister and foreign ministers.’

Odile Baudelaire, a Paris-based agent who advises the buyers of specialty stores like Nordstrom in the United States and Myer in Australia, agrees.

‘The price is a bit higher in Turkey than China but creativity and design is much better. So are the fabrics.’

Michael Bonzom, a trend spotter for the NellyRodi agency and style consultant, noted there is already regional cooperation over the Asian competition: ‘Turkey, Morocco and Italy are all trying to get together to beat the threat from China.’

Turkey's very good reputation for respecting production deadlines and delivering on time was in its favour, he added.

On the likely future success of Istanbul fashion week in attracting international press and buyers, opinions were reserved.

‘Many Turkish designers don't show anywhere in Europe so it is a good alternative. I think there is potential. They have the factories and they have the creativity,’ says Baudelaire.

But she wondered if buyers would trek to Istanbul and whether it might make more sense to hold showrooms in the other fashion capitals.

Paul Chan, a buyer from Singapore, was similarly sceptical.

‘Paris, Milan, London are all close together and they have the big name brands like Louis Vuitton and Dior.’

He said the 10-hour flight was too far for southeast Asian buyers and that Istanbul would need to promote itself in the region. Meanwhile he thought there was untapped potential closer to home: ‘Why don't they design for the Middle East?’

The verdict of Faris and Layla Shehri, from the exclusive Art of Kohl Ltd shops in Riyadh, was ‘quite interesting. It is a good initiative from government to recognise talent in the fashion industry.’

But they felt Istanbul had ‘invited the buyers too soon. They are not ready.’
Bonzom was more upbeat.

‘Turkey is known for casual wear, cotton, denim, beachwear, and leather but not at all for its ready-to-wear. They are quite right to want to construct an identity in the middle to luxury ready-to-wear range.’

‘They have some very talented designers, like Arzu Kaprol. Also good menswear. I really hope it will pay off.’

Natalie Lacroix, a buyer for the exclusive Franck et Fils boutiques in Paris, was impressed by all the edgily-dressed young women jostling to get into the shows and the hip street scene in Istanbul.

‘They are clearly mad about fashion.’

She liked the idea of Istanbul's fashion week — ‘Turkey is the first country in the Mediterranean basin to try to establish its fashion identity’ — but the catwalk shows fell short of expectations. ‘Some designers need to westernise their styling more.’

Designer Mehtap Elaidi, who was on the organising committee, said the event already provided a much-needed platform.

‘To put a show on in Paris costs as much as a whole season here. We want to show we really have something. This is just the tip of the iceberg.’

But it takes a long time to build a brand, let alone a fashion capital. As several insiders put it: ‘There's a long road ahead.’

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

TCA Condemns Actions by Armenian Lobby

Washington, DC – The deposition of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds in Washington this past weekend was supposed to be the latest chapter in the defamation case filed by Congresswoman Jean Schmidt against David Krikorian, a candidate for Schmidt’s Ohio Congressional seat in the 2010 elections. Instead, her testimony was a recitation of a familiar story in American politics: a full-on assault against the national interests of the United States and the integrity of its justice system by the Armenian lobby.

Krikorian, whose candidacy is backed by various Armenian groups including the Armenian national Committee of America (ANCA), has made a series of unfounded and slanderous accusations of Congresswoman Schmidt, including that she has accepted “blood money” from the Turkish government. The Congresswoman’s case has been supported by the Ohio Elections Commission in a unanimous vote affirming her suit against Krikorian.

With no basis for these claims against the Congresswoman, and with President Obama and the United States Congress refusing to endorse ANCA’s version of century-old events in a now-defunct empire (the treatment of Ottoman Armenians during their rebellion against the Ottoman regime), Krikorian and his lobbyist backers are getting desperate.

Their latest stunt was to produce Ms. Edmonds, a former FBI translator with no knowledge of the case between Mrs. Schmidt and Mr. Krikorian. The key items that we learned on Saturday were that Ms. Edmonds has never heard of the any of the Political Action Committees that Krikorian has accused of trafficking in ‘blood money;’ she learned of the case between Krikorian and Schmidt eight days prior to her deposition; she has a self-aggrandizing imagination inflating her position at the FBI to that of an interrogator of terrorists; and that she has a book coming out this fall.

Why would she testify then? Was the Armenian Lobby merely trying to divert the court’s attention away from the case at hand by introducing a witness who would make further unfounded accusations against the Turkish government, none of which involved the defendant or the plaintiff? Or, one might ask, has there even been a bigger waste of time for the American legal system?

The irrelevance and insignificance of Ms Edmonds deposition can be evidenced by the fact that Mr. Geragos, Mr. Krikorian’s attorney of record, did not bother to show up. Instead, Krikorian was represented by a proxy attorney whose familiarity with the case extends to a few hours before the deposition took place. And who could blame Mr. Geragos? His job is to serve as a defense attorney in this particular case, not to watch a discredited former employee of the FBI (who served the federal government for a total of six months before being fired), give an in-depth analysis of apples when the topic of conversation was supposed to be oranges.

Saturday’s deposition was nothing more than an opportunity for Ms. Edmonds to make unsubstantiated claims and air conspiracy theories ranging from the tragedy of September 11th, to lurid sexual innuendo regarding unnamed members of Congress, and briefcases full of money. Stories such as this belong in a John Grisham novel rather than a formal legal proceeding.

Nor were the Armenian lobby’s tactics limited to Ms. Edmonds’ testimony. Following the deposition, the Communications Director for ANCA, Elizabeth Chouldjian (who conveniently also serves as a freelance “journalist” for Armenia Horizon TV), ambushed attorneys representing Mrs. Schmidt in a further attempt to steer the discourse away from the actual substance of the legal case. It is astonishing how low ANCA and its officials will sink to impose their view of history on others.

This diversionary tactic by the defense to confuse the issue is further evidence that the 83% of the Ohio 2nd District were correct in rejecting the flawed thinking of Krikorian, who was rejected first by both major political parties.

Furthermore, it displays the lethal mixture that results from a disgruntled and discredited former federal employee, a single-issue Armenian lobbying organization that serves the interests of a foreign government to the detriment of the security and interests of the United States, and a fringe candidate in a congressional election willing to make unfounded and slanderous accusations against public servants. Trying to manipulate a legal case is just the tip of the iceberg.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Celebrating Turkey in the Heart of Paris

By: Susanne Fowler
New York Times
Aug. 2, 2009

PARIS | Visitors strolling past the Trocadéro in Paris recently could be forgiven for thinking that they had somehow been transported to another time and place. There on the square, with the Eiffel Tower glowing behind them, were dervishes whirling to the delight of thousands of spectators.

The presentation was part of the opening ceremony for “Saison de la Turquie en France,” an impressive celebration of Turkish arts and culture — especially considering that it is taking place in a country that has, at times, vocally disputed Turkey’s inclusion in the European Union.

With the countries budgeting at least 24 million euros in government and private support for the program, the “Saison,” is a nine-month-long culture festival that is bringing hundreds of Turkish artists, musicians, writers and other experts to cities throughout France.

The wide-ranging events are detailed in French in the festival catalog (PDF) and on the frequently updated Web site.

While the action is taking place in many cities, including Lille, Toulouse, Marseille and Lyon, here are some of the Parisian highlights:
– Encounters with writers like Elif Shafak and the Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk.
– Illumination of the Eiffel Tower in the red and white of the Turkish flag during the month of October.
– Photography exhibits, including Ara Guler’s moody shots of Istanbul from the ’50s and ’60s.
– A film festival celebrating Turkey’s current “new wave’’ in cinema.

Because the program is so extensive, visitors may have a hard time choosing where to start. The answer may be a stop at the Café Turc, an airy and welcoming structure designed by the architects Han Tumertekin and Francois Pin in the historic Jardin des Tuileries, near the Place de la Concorde.

The cafe, open through Aug. 8, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., is a great way to dip a toe into some great Turkish traditions, including a workshops on puppetry and traditional instruments, or by simply pulling up a stool, sipping a demitasse of rich black Turkish coffee and listening to one of the many free concerts. It was standing room only last week for Göçebe Sarkilar’s concert of songs of the Anatolian nomads. The cafe’s closing night, on Aug. 8, should be rocking when Selim Sesler takes the stage with his clarinet and his gypsy-jazz band.

The irony of France playing host to a huge Turkish festival is not lost on the co-chairmen of the event.

Stanislas Pierret, the French co-commissioner, said his goal was to provide “a platform for the Turkish people to show what Turkey is really like.’’

“Istanbul now is like the New York of Europe,’’ he said. “There is a lot of creativity every where.’’

Gorgun Taner, the Turkish co-commisioner, agreed. “Our contemporary art and music scenes are dynamic,’’ he said, “as they should be when you realize that 50 percent of the Turkish population is under age 25.”

He hopes that the “Saison” can forge a lasting bond between the two countries.

“We are trying to bring to France examples of the multiculturalism of Turkey, to show not only how we differ, but also how much we look alike,” he said.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Turkey works on plan regarding Kurdish conflict

July 29, 2009
Associated Press


ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's government said Wednesday it is prepared to grant more rights to the nation's Kurds in an effort to end the 25-year insurgency by Kurdish rebels.

But Interior Minister Besir Atalay provided no details of the plan and despite his conciliatory language the challenge of persuading thousands of Kurdish rebels to lay down their arms is likely to be long and difficult.

The rebels want an unconditional amnesty that includes their leaders, but the government has said it had no plans to expand laws that enable lower-ranking rebels to avoid prison by renouncing their past and sharing intelligence.

Kurdish activists have said imprisoned rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan will announce a "roadmap" to end the conflict ahead of Aug. 15, the date when the guerrillas first took up arms in 1984. They are fighting for autonomy in Turkey's southeast, and the conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people. Many of the insurgents' attacks are launched from hideouts in northern Iraq.

Turkey has refused talks with the rebel group _the Kurdistan Workers Party — but has acknowledged that military action alone will not end the conflict. The United States and the European Union have joined Turkey in labeling the group a terrorist organization.

"Come on and join this process, let's solve this problem that has cost so much and seized our future," Atalay said at a nationally televised news conference Wednesday. "We have the intention to take determined, patient and courageous steps."
He said the government was working on a plan to give more rights to Kurds, and he invited opposition parties and institutions to contribute to a national consensus.

Atalay did not give a timeframe for a Kurdish initiative, saying details would be disclosed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Under pressure from the EU, Turkey has granted greater cultural rights to Kurds, including the launch earlier this year of a 24-hour television channel broadcasting in the once-banned Kurdish language.

Private NTV television said Wednesday that the government's plan may include moves to allow the use of Kurdish names for thousands of villages whose names had been changed to Turkish, allow Kurdish prisoners to speak in their mother tongue during prison visits, expand Kurdish language broadcasts to private TV stations and set up Kurdish language faculties.

Some Kurds welcomed the government's initiative.

"We will fulfill our responsibilities," said Sirri Sakik, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party. "It is the common problem of everyone living in this country."

But the party's leader, Ahmet Turk, insisted that Turkey must end its military drive against the rebels.

"Operations must stop," Turk said. "The problem is multidimensional and no time should be wasted."

Mehmet Emin Aktar, the head of the Bar Association in the largely Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir, said: "No one has patience for more blood and tears."

Turkey's far-right Nationalist Action Party accused the government of offering concessions.

"This initiative threatens the future of Turkey. It is dividing the country along ethnic lines and preparing the ground for negotiations with the terrorists," said Oktay Vural, a senior lawmaker of the Action Party. "The more demands are met, the more they will ask for."

Monday, July 27, 2009

After 25 years of conflict, Turkey makes overtures to Kurds

July 27, 2009

By Dorian Jones

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced last week that his government was working on steps to solve the Kurdish conflict, which has claimed over 40,000 lives.

"Whether we call it the Kurdish, the southeast or eastern problem, whether we call it the Kurdish initiative, we have started work on this," Erdogan told a news conference before departing on a trip to Syria.

He did not say when the plan would be announced or what it might entail, but did say the interior ministry was already discussing the issue with other branches of government including the military and the national intelligence agency.

Abdurrahman Kurt, a Kurdish member of parliament for the ruling the AK party, said his government would deliver further concessions to Kurds.

"We are going to open Kurdish language institutes in the universities and we are allowing Kurdish names to be given to the children and Kurdish broadcasting," he told Deutsche Welle's correspondent in Istanbul.

However, Erdogan has ruled out including the country's main Kurdish party, the Democratic Society Party (DTP), in the peace initiative until they denounce the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as terrorists.

DTP parliamentary leader Emine Ayna says peace efforts cannot succeed without her party's participation.

"There is a problem when you talk about this, not with the Kurds, but with the chief of the army and intelligence and your ministers," she told Deutsche Welle.
Political maneuvers

The government's move is seen as a reaction to a plan expected to be put forward by the jailed separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan on August 15. That is the date 25 years ago when the PKK took up arms against the state.

Ocalan's lawyers contacted academics and journalists this month to plug his plans for a "road map." Details have not been released, but the Turkish newspaper Sabah reported that it would include a ceasefire, an unconditional amnesty for PKK fighters, Kurdish-language education and moves towards greater autonomy.

Ocalan has been in prison since 1999. Originally sentenced to death, his punishment was commuted to life in 2002 when the death penalty was abolished due to pressure from the European Union, which Turkey is eager to join.

Ever since his capture, the 61-year-old has said the PKK is ready to disarm if Turkey is prepared to negotiate.

Though his calls have received little attention over the past decade, the approaching anniversary of the conflict and his anticipated road map have generated interest in a man still reviled by most Turks as a terrorist, but respected by many Kurds as a freedom fighter.

In recent years, Turkey's government has softened its hard line on Kurds, bowing to some of the demands that have added fuel to the insurgency. Ankara has allowed children to be officially registered with Kurdish names, tightened anti-torture laws, and allowed some Kurdish-language teaching.

However, fighting has persisted with the PKK using northern Iraq as a base for cross-border operations.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Women take lead in building mosque in Turkey

July 14, 2009

By Ivan Watson

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- There is a shiny addition among the Ottoman mosques and palaces that make up Istanbul's stunning skyline: the metallic, mirrored dome of the new Sakirin Mosque, a Muslim place of worship built with a woman's touch.

For what may be the first time in history, women have been at the forefront of the construction of a mosque in Turkey.

One of the project's leaders is Zeynep Fadillioglu, an interior decorator who has designed restaurants, hotels and luxury homes from New Delhi, India, to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and London, England.

She helped organize a team of traditional mosque artists specializing in Islamic calligraphy, along with craftsmen in glassworks, metal-casting and lighting who, like Fadillioglu, have built careers working in exclusively secular architecture and design.

"I want people to feel peaceful and be left with themselves as much as possible and yet have beautiful art and artistic symbolism around them," she said.

Istanbul has a venerable tradition of mosque architecture, dating back centuries to when Ottoman sultans declared themselves caliph, or spiritual leader of the Muslim world.

The shores of the Bosporus Strait are studded with 16th century masterpieces such as the Suleymaniye Mosque, built by the Ottoman Empire's most famous architect, Mimar Sinan, and ornate, neo-Baroque jewels designed by the Armenian Balyan family in the 19th century. But Istanbul's most senior Muslim cleric laments that mosque design suffered a decline after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of World War I.

"In the last 70, 80 years, we have built mosques that are copies of Ottoman architecture," said Mustafa Cagrici, the mufti of Istanbul. "This wasn't a good development, because the copy can never be as good as the original."

Fadillioglu and her team of artists are hoping to change that.

The Sakirin Mosque was commissioned by a wealthy Turkish Arab family and built in one of Istanbul's oldest cemeteries.

The designers put a number of contemporary touches on the structure, giving it plate glass walls etched with gold-leaf verses from the Quran, framed by giant cast-iron grids.

The mihrab -- the alcove that points worshippers in the direction of Mecca -- is made of asymmetrical ovals, similar to a design used by Fadillioglu to decorate a restaurant in London. And the chandelier is a multi-layered series of metal and plexiglass rings, carrying Quranic inscriptions and dripping with scores of delicate glass teardrops.

"The glass chandelier brings the high dome down to the people," Fadillioglu explained. "So when they pray and kneel they don't feel lost with the light and it shelters them."

Many of the artists here never worked on a mosque before.

"It's special that a woman's hand is involved in this," said one of them, a male carpenter named Metin Cekeroglu. "If you think about it, a home is made by woman. And if we think about this place as a home of God, we can also say women will make this place much better."

Fadillioglu said one of her goals was to bring extra attention into the design of the women's section of the mosque, an area that she says is often neglected by architects. According to Islamic tradition, worshippers are segregated by gender at mosques.

"I have seen mosques where women have been pushed to the worst part of stairs, cramped area. Sort of as if (they are) unwanted in the mosque," she said. "That is not what Islam is about. ... Women are equal in Islam to men"

Five minutes' drive from the Sakirin Mosque stands the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, a 16th century structure built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in honor of his favorite daughter.

Unfortunately, female worshippers do not get to enjoy its stunning stained glass windows the way the men do. They have to pray in a small women's section, hidden behind a bank of chest-high shelves that store shoes.

At the Sakirin Mosque, Fadillioglu said, she gave women praying on the balcony an unobstructed view of the dome, the ornate chandelier, and the area on the floor where the imam will lead prayers.

"I would like to come here to pray," said Elif Demir, an 18-year old art student with a funky, orange-dyed haircut who was working on the chandelier. "This mosque is completely different because of the light that's coming through the walls, through the glass."

Fadillioglu's role in the Sakirin Mosque is all the more surprising because she comes from a jet-set side of Turkish society not normally associated with Islam.

"It is unusual," she conceded, "because first of all not many modern people have been commissioned to design a mosque."

She spoke in a recent interview at Ulus 29, the expensive Istanbul hilltop restaurant and bar that is owned by her husband. Amid the Ottoman- and Selcuk-inspired flourishes she has sprinkled around the restaurant are echoes of designs seen at the Sakirin Mosque. A glass chandelier made of hundreds of crystal tear drops hangs above the bar, similar in style to the mosque's chandelier.
Fadillioglu said being a night club owner does not prevent her from also being a Muslim.

"You might be surprised in Turkey to find some very modern-looking people being very religious at the same time," she said.

Religion is a hot-button political issue in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country with a strict secular system of government.

For the past eight years a fierce power struggle has been under way between an urban secular elite and a rising new class of religiously conservative Turks from the Anatolian heartlands.

Unlike the wives of Turkey's Islamic-rooted president and prime minister, Fadillioglu does not wear the Islamic headscarf that is often seen as the symbol of this new class of Turks.

Fadillioglu said politics have polarized society.

"In my childhood ... you didn't differentiate between who was religious," she explained. "Whoever wants to worship or visit this mosque, its open, its ready for them."

On May 8, Turkey's prime minister attended an inauguration ceremony for the Sakirin Mosque.

Afterward, in an interview with CNN, the mufti of Istanbul called it the start of a new era of mosque design in Turkey.

"It is in Islamic tradition for women to commission mosques ... and now we have women who are building mosques as well," Cagrici said. "God willing, I hope the world will see more of these beautiful mosques, touched by women's hands."

Monday, July 13, 2009

EU nations, Turkey sign major pipeline deal

By Hande Culpan
Agence France-Presse

ANKARA (AFP) — Four EU countries and Turkey signed an accord Monday on building a major US-backed gas pipeline to reduce European reliance on Russia amid lingering uncertainty on who will supply the gas.

The prime ministers of Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Turkey, inked the intergovernmental accord, hailing it as a milestone in the Nabucco pipeline project, long delayed by lack of commitment from gas-exporting nations.

The 3,300-kilometre (2,000-mile) conduit is planned to become operational in 2014 at an estimated cost of 7.9 billion euros (10.9 billion dollars), with a capacity to pump 31 billion cubic metres of gas from the Caspian Sea to Austria via Turkey and the Balkans, bypassing Russia.

The project "is of crucial importance for EU's and Turkey's energy security," European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said at the ceremony.

"Sometime ago people said the project would not go ahead. I believe this pipeline is now inevitable rather than just probable," he said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced confidence that "the more steps we take (on realising the project), the more the interest of supplier countries will grow."

His Hungarian counterpart Gordon Bajnai warned of "extremely difficult moments in the coming years that will require the highest level of commitment."

Azerbaijan is seen as the primary potential provider of gas for the conduit, with Turkmenistan, Iraq and Egypt also mentioned for the long term.

Azerbaijan insists it has enough reserves for the conduit. But last month it raised concerns among Nabucco proponents, signing a deal to export gas to Russia starting in 2010.

The Nabucco project aims to avoid a repetition of cut-offs that have disrupted Russian supplies to Europe during the winter, with Moscow accused of using the gas as a political weapon.

A quarter of all gas used in Europe comes from Russia, with several southern European countries depending almost exclusively on Russian supplies.

"Russia is expected not to hinder directly or indirectly the Nabucco project," said Bulgarian premier Sergey Stanishev, whose country was among the hardest hit by the cut-offs.

Nabucco is in direct competition with Russia's South Stream project, which will carry Russian gas through Bulgaria to Western Europe under the Black Sea.

The project appeared to get a boost Friday when Turkmenistan said it was prepared to supply Nabucco with gas, despite its earlier reluctance.

And Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who attended Monday's gathering here, said his country might contribute 15 billion cubic meters of gas.

But a US official cast doubt on the proposal, pointing at lingering disputes over natural resources between Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurds, who control oil- and gas-rich northern Iraq.

Iraq "needs some time to figure out how it is going to develop its natural resources and where it will sell that gas," Matthew Bryza, US deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told reporters.

Iran is another possible supplier, but both the United States and the EU are opposed to its participation.

Still, Erdogan insisted Monday that Iran and even Russia might join the project "when conditions allow" in the long term.

Two European banks have expressed readiness to finance the project, but analysts say securing the cost could be difficult in the global economic slowdown and uncertainty over suppliers.

The project has been delayed also by Turkish demands to use 15 percent of Nabucco's gas for domestic use or even for re-export.

EU officials said Ankara's concerns were to be addressed by an arrangement under which the pipeline would operate both ways, giving Turkey access to European stockpiles in times of need.

Erdogan said the pipeline "will elevate Turkey to a significant position" for European energy security and help boost its struggling EU membership bid.

Barroso praised Turkey's role, saying the project "could open the door to a new era in relations between Turkey and the EU, and beyond."

The pipeline's shareholders are Austria's OMV, Turkey's Botas, Bulgaria's Bulgargaz, Hungary's MOL, Romania's Transgaz and Germany's RWE.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sweden shows support for Turkey's EU bid as it takes over bloc's helm

Hurriyet Daily News
July 1, 2009

ISTANBUL - Sweden took over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union on Wednesday, as its ambassador to Turkey reiterated his country's support for Ankara in its membership bid to the 27-nation bloc.

Sweden, who took over the rotating EU presidency from the Czech Republic, will continue to support Turkey until the day it becomes a full member of the European Union, the country's ambassador in Ankara Christer Asp told the state-run Anatolian Agency.

"I think that it is wrong to only look at how many chapters have been opened for negotiations," Asp said. "What is crucial is the continuation of negotiations. It is important to meet the conditions and criteria in order to open new chapters of negotiations."

Turkey, which began accession talks in 2005, on Tuesday opened talks on taxation, one of the 35 policy negotiating areas – or chapters – all would-be members have to complete before joining.

Ankara has now formally opened 11 chapters. Eight other chapters have been frozen since 2006 due to a customs dispute with Greek Cypriots. France is blocking another five chapters directly linked to EU membership.

Asp said Sweden is ready to open all negotiating areas with Turkey, but added the chapters remaining to be opened are the most difficult ones.

He also said he has no doubt that Turkey will become a full member of the EU, adding it would be a strategic error not to let Turkey into the bloc.

Swedish officials recently expressed support for Turkey's long-running membership bid, as the Nordic country has said it is determined to continue progress in Turkey’s accession negotiations.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Turkey opens taxation chapter, urges EU to play the game by its rules

Hurriyet Daily News
June 30, 2009

ISTANBUL - Turkey on Tuesday opened negotiations on taxation reform in its long-running bid to join the European Union, and urged the 27-member bloc to drop political considerations and "play the game by its rules."

At membership talks in Brussels, senior EU and Turkish officials opened talks on taxation, one of the 35 policy negotiating areas -- or chapters -- all would-be members have to complete prior to joining.

Ankara has now formally opened 11 chapters. Eight other chapters have been frozen since 2006 due to a customs dispute with Greek Cypriots.

France is blocking another five chapters directly linked to EU membership.

Turkey's European affairs minister, Egemen Bagis, told a news conference that Ankara was aware of its responsibilities in the process and urged the EU to respect its obligations.

"Turkey is prepared to play the game by its rules, but when new rules are introduced to the game while the game is going on, this creates reaction," he was quoted by AFP as saying.

"We expect the EU to abide by its commitments for a fair and sustainable negotiation process and reaffirm its political will to help further our objectives," he said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with their Austrian colleagues, favor some kind of special relationship with Turkey which falls short of full membership.

"Turkey expects to join the EU as an equal member with all the rights and obligations this will imply," Bagis said.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, told the conference the opened chapter is "an important chapter and a significant one on Turkey's path towards the European Union."

But he warned: "There are several benchmarks that need to be met before chapter 16 can be provisionally closed."

Kohout said Turkey would have to align its laws with EU standards on value-added tax and excise duties, and eliminate "discriminatory" levies on alcohol and imported tobacco.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oregonian primes business ventures in Turkey

By: Jill Rehkopf Smith
The Oregonian
June 24, 2009

Irl Davis, a Raleigh Hills resident whose Oregon roots stretch back to a Tygh Valley homestead in the 1870s, is one of 15 worldwide representatives of the Investment Support and Promotion Agency of the Republic of Turkey's Prime Ministry. His territory covers 11 western states.

Davis, 60, majored in electrical engineering technology at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls. In 1984 he began manufacturing electronic components in China, selling them to 17 different countries. In 2002 he started Global One, a consulting firm that helps small and mid-sized businesses expand into emerging markets overseas.

He made his first close connection with Turkey through a Turkish employee at one of his Chinese plants. He landed his job with the prime ministry after setting up a trade mission to Turkey for Washington state.

Americans, in general, have been updating their image of Turkey since April, when President Barack Obama visited the predominantly Muslim country and highlighted it as a model secular democracy.

Until then, Davis said, many people free-associated Turkey with "camels and veils."
The Oregonian recently sat down with Davis at his home in Raleigh Hills. His comments have been edited for length and clarity:

How did Obama's visit to Turkey affect your work?

Obama has opened a lot of doors -- and not just one way either. In the last few months, we've had more activity out of that region. All these people from these different countries in the Middle East are extremely optimistic.

Your website describes Turkey as strategic. Why more so than other countries?

It always has been strategic. Think about the Silk Road and why it's there, why Istanbul is there in the first place. It's a bridge between east and west. You have over a billion customers within a couple hour flight. In Istanbul they have a Microsoft office that takes care of 80 countries.

Is it a problem that Turkey is not yet in the European Union?

Turkey is given all the rights of the European Union but is still not a full-fledged member. Your tariffs are very attractive...Foreign businesses are utilizing the free-trade zones in Turkey. Within these zones, foreign companies can take advantage of reduced or no tariffs. Setting up a remote factory within these zones allows the company to import raw goods to this location, manufacture the finished product and then export it to various countries in the EU without tariffs.

Isn't this a bad time to be expanding overseas, in the middle of a recession?

(In a recession) you can do one of two things. You can cut back expenses or you can increase revenue. It's time to look at places where we can increase our revenue. People are saying, 'Maybe I should ... take our product and sell it from Turkey into these areas and maybe even then tap into the 70 million consumers already in Turkey because they're young, they're progressive.

Can you describe some of the cultural differences that you help businesses navigate?

A lot has to do with styles of negotiation. Northern Turkey would be more the western European style of negotiating: Let's cooperate together, let's figure out what's the best thing to do as a team. Down south would be more (bargaining style): They start at 4 and you start at 1. In China, there's winners and losers ... For an American, knowing that right up front, it's up to us to make it look like (China wins). You have to frame the negotiation 'This is good for China' before you even get into it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Turkey says normalization talks with Armenia are underway

June 24, 2009
Hurriyet Daily News

ISTANBUL - The talks aimed at the normalization of relations between Ankara and Yerevan continue at various levels, a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday, ruling out recent reports suggesting the suspension of the agreed road map with Armenia.

"We are discussing all issues with Armenia, and what is important is principles we set," Anatolian Agency quoted spokesperson Burak Ozugergin as telling a press conference in the Turkish capital of Ankara.

Ozugergin said there was also an ongoing process between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and both processes were affecting each other.

Turkey and Armenia agreed in April on a "road map" deal for U.S.-backed talks that could lead to the normalization of ties and the opening of their border, which Ankara closed in a show of support to Baku in 1993 after Armenian occupation of Azeri territories in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Turkish officials, however, have said Turkey will not open its border with Armenia before the neighboring country ends its occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, reassuring Azeri leaders that Ankara's efforts to reconcile with Yerevan would not undermine the country's interests.

Recent media reports questioned further progress in talks between Turkey and Armenia. Even EU South Caucasus envoy Peter Semneby said in an interview published last week Turkey has taken a "tactical step backwards" on normalizing relations with Armenia because of fierce domestic reaction to the move.

Ozugergin said the road map would be made public when the conditions are suitable, adding he had already said that the two countries have agreed on some principles.
He said Turkey was supporting a solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute through peaceful means, and a positive course of the process would contribute to peace and stability in the Caucasus.

The spokesman also said Turkey would support any positive development or step in the Minsk process.

"Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem will restore stability in the region, and make it sustainable," Ozugergin said.

Ozugergin also said Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu might meet foreign ministers of other countries, including his Armenian counterpart Eduard Nalbandian, on the Greek island of Corfu during an informal meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, this weekend.

OP-ED: Free to Be a Kurd

June 24, 2009
The New York Times


ISTANBUL — On hillsides across southeastern Turkey, you often see the national slogan — “Happy is one who can say I am a Turk” — in giant letters that can be read from miles away.
The slogan was coined in the 1920s by modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as part of an effort to create a national identity out of the ashes of a bankrupt empire.

But that’s not why the message was written on the southeastern hills. The people who live there are not Turkish, but Kurdish.

And for the last four decades, the Turkish government has been telling them that there is only one acceptable identity in this country — that of a happy Turk.

Turkey’s long struggle with the Kurdish issue is a painful episode involving blunders, victories, and, along the way, plenty of abuse from all sides.

Since 1984, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been waging a bloody guerrilla war for an independent Kurdish homeland. Ruthless and dogmatic, the PKK has wreaked havoc, killing civilians and soldiers in terror attacks across Turkey. (The death toll stands at about 30,000.)
Turkey’s fight with the PKK tainted our political system and clogged our minds for decades, and made Ankara even more resistant to Kurdish demands for political and cultural rights.

All that is changing.

Armed with new self-confidence and higher democratic standards, the Turkish government has quietly crafted a bold initiative to persuade the PKK to surrender in return for political representation and, eventually, an amnesty. The deal has the potential to put an end to one of the deadliest conflicts in this region.

After thousands of casualties and decades of guerrilla warfare, there is now an awareness at the highest levels of the Turkish body politic that the Kurdish issue is not simply a terror problem — that a solution has to include reforms that go to the heart of Kurdish identity.

Accordingly, Ankara recently lifted an archaic ban on the Kurdish language and started aid programs for underdeveloped Kurdish regions. State-owned television has launched a Kurdish-language network, and the Higher Education Board is working to open institutes for Kurdish studies. It has become de rigueur for politicians to do a public mea culpa over the past.

The next steps are still a little hazy. There is talk of changing the Constitution — particularly the definition of citizenship, which is currently defined as Turkishness — and there is a consensus in the government to return the original Kurdish names to towns and villages.

But the hearts-and-minds campaign is only one side of the coin. The real challenge is dealing with the PKK. Senior government officials privately admit there have been discussions with PKK leaders based in northern Iraq through Iraqi Kurds and other intermediaries to convince them to surrender in return for an eventual amnesty.

Remarkably, the initiative has not been vetoed by the Turkish military. It has received support from the media and even a tacit nod from Turkey’s main opposition party. Still, officials in Ankara have yet to make a public case for the strategy, which so far has been only quietly whispered in the corridors of power.

Yet what happens within Turkey is only one part of the equation. Turkey’s efforts can only go so far if not matched by support from Iraqi Kurds, who control the areas from which the PKK operates, and from Washington, the ultimate guarantor of the region.

Having been in the business of terrorism for too long, the PKK will not easily accept any deal offered by Ankara. Its leadership is fractured and cut off from the reality of the modern world. It will need to be pressured militarily and logistically.

Iraqi Kurds could help by repatriating the thousands of pro-PKK Turkish Kurds who have been living for years in the Mahmur refugee camp across the border in Iraq, and by moving ahead with a planned pan-Kurdish conference.

In turn, if Turkey can channel the PKK into a legitimate political force, it can once again become the protector of Kurds in northern Iraq, as it was for a decade after the Gulf War. That would free Washington from worrying about the security of the Kurds once U.S. forces withdraw.

And if President Obama put his weight behind Turkey’s initiative, it could become the first real overseas success story of his administration.

This could be the year we leave one of the bloodiest Middle East conflicts behind. But the window of opportunity is short.

Asli Aydintasbas is a columnist for the Turkish daily Aksam.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Today's Zaman Interview with Former New York Times Istanbul Bureau Chief Stephen Kinzer

Stephen Kinzer, former chief of The New York Times bureau in İstanbul from 1996 to 2006, has said Turkey has started to handle its domestic and regional problems in a more democratic and peaceful way as the world has been evolving in the same direction, and in this world, there is no longer any military control of politics.

“The role of the military in Turkey has changed a lot. And it has to change more because in relation to what the world wants, armies do not participate in politics,” said Kinzer in İstanbul, where he was conducting research for his next book dealing with US relations with Iran, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Kinzer pointed out that the new US administration under President Barack Obama will support civilian democracy in Turkey in a stronger way.

“I certainly think that there will be no covert encouragement for the military to continue to play a role. For example, after the March 2003 vote about the Iraq war, one American official [former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz] went on television and said, ‘I was disappointed that the military didn't step up and play a role.' This was terrible. It's almost like encouraging a coup. You won't hear that anymore,” said Kinzer, who after completing his assignment to Turkey published “Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds.”
According to Kinzer Turkey can become a regional power, and this can benefit the United States as well.

“When [Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoğlu goes to Pakistan, for example, he is able to talk to every faction. There are no doors closed to Turkey. But there are doors closed to America,” he said and added that “Turkey can talk to people we can't talk to. The strategic identity for Turkey that Davutoğlu sees fits in very well with Obama's foreign policy ideas.”
Kinzer expanded on the topic and more for Sunday's Zaman.

You reported from Turkey at the end of the 1990s, and you've been observing the country since then. What have you found striking in those years?

The 1990s were something like a lost decade for Turkey. There were weak coalition governments that were not able to implement coherent policies; violence in the Southeast was at a very high level; Turkey was fighting most of its neighbors; and the country just seemed adrift. Now a lot of it has changed.

What are those changes?

First of all, you have a strong government with broad popular support. Second, since 1999, when the EU accession project took on momentum, Turkey has had a framework for reform. The new government, at least in its early years, was much more committed to reforms. We used to hear from the so-called secular parties that “we must move ever closer to Europe and we must democratize.” But they did not do it. Certainly after 1999, you really saw democratization and modernization in this country. This country is now probably more democratic than it has ever been. It's also a great step forward that the “Cumhurbaşkanı” [president] would stand up and say, “The Kurdish problem is our number one problem.” You would not have heard that in the 1990s. We have gone from a time when a Kurdish kid in Diyarbakır could not even ask for “çay” [tea] in the Kurdish language to a time when you have a Kurdish TV station, and the university in Mardin is going to have a department of Kurdish language and literature. The other big change I see is Turkey's role in the world.

How do you think Turkey's role in the world is changing?

Ever since the days of Atatürk [Gazi Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey], Turkey looked mostly inward. There were some reasons for that. In the Kemalist period, Turkey was so primitive, had no roads, no schools and no hospitals. So there was so much work to do inside Turkey that they couldn't think about the world. And secondly, Gazi always wanted to calm the fears that they were going to try to build a new Ottoman Empire. That was important for that time. But now the whole [Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoğlu project has something very important for Turkey.

What does it have?

Turkey is now looking at the possibility of becoming a regional power, and over the long run, even a global power. That's why it's opening up embassies in Latin America and Africa. But I see it going more or less in concentric circles. You want to have zero problems with neighbors, and then you can have a more regional influence, and it could go from there. I like the Turkish approach of promoting the idea of diplomacy, compromise, resolving problems with negotiations: “Let's try to get Israel and Syria together. Let's try to get America and Iran together. Let's try to get Russia and Georgia together.” Turkey has a unique ability to talk to different sides in conflicts. The strategic identity for Turkey that Davutoğlu sees fits in very well with Obama's foreign policy ideas. So Turkey's relationships with Europe and America have crossed over. If you went back to the beginning of this decade, the EU had just blessed Turkey and given it a chance to begin the accession process. Right after that George Bush was elected; as Europe was embracing Turkey, the US was bombing places. That made Europe the ideal partner. Now they've changed positions. Europe is not so friendly to Turkey, and I can see why Turks don't want to be so positive toward Europe. Meanwhile, America has emerged as a far different kind of player in the world that wants to resolve problems through diplomacy. It means the beginning of a new, close phase of cooperation between Turkey and the United States.

Do you think Turkey's diverse relations with a range of countries in the world would be all fine with the Obama administration?

Yes, I do. I don't think it was fine with the Americans all the time. We didn't like it when Turkey was talking to Iran. But Turkey didn't care and said, “We're going to talk to Iran anyway.” Now we like the idea that Turkey talks to Iran. That's why Davutoğlu's project and Obama's policies are very much in line. They can help each other.

Do you think relations could have been disastrous if the Republicans were in power in the United States?

Yes. For example, during the presidential campaign, John McCain was talking about the circumstances under which he would bomb Iran. Anybody who bombs Iran is doing something bad for Turkey. Look what happened with Iraq.

Now such threats come from Israel…

The relationship between Israel and the United States may also be changing.

In what way?

The relationship between the United States and Israel is developing. And I still feel that it is unlikely that Israel would take some hugely dramatic and radical step in the Middle East, like bombing Iran with the realization that America was 100 percent against it. If America says that “we don't like it but after all Israel is its own country,” that's kind of a signal, then, maybe Israel will do it. But if the United States makes it very clear that “we do not want you to do it,” which is what we are saying to Israel, then, it is hard for Israel to do it.

You referred to Davutoğlu's foreign policy project of zero problems with neighbors. It has not been entirely achieved yet. What is your view of the most important unachieved problems in that regard?

Armenia, Cyprus and the Kurds. We were waiting for a big breakthrough on the Armenian issue, but it didn't happen. Obviously, there was a push back from Azerbaijan. However, Davutoğlu has told journalists that Turkey has not given up on this. That has a deadline every year because of the genocide resolution in Washington. We cannot get to next April 24 and still not have this resolved. The problem is how to bring Azerbaijan into the equation. This is an obstacle in Davutoğlu's achieving his diplomacy, compromise, negotiation policy in the world. When he goes out and tells Israel, for example, “You don't want to bomb Hamas. You want to talk to Hamas. You want to negotiate,” naturally they say, “What about you?” I love this phrase “Yurtta Sulh Cihanda Sulh” [Peace at Home, peace in the World]. But America and Turkey each have one half. America has peace at home. When we have conflicts in America, they are always peaceful. Turkey should learn from that. But we are warlike in the world. We need to learn from Turkey. Turkey has peace in the world. So each of us has half.

Why do you think the Kurdish issue is one of the most difficult to address?

Because it requires such a change in mindset with everything we've been told up to now. The policy still in the minds of most Turks has been “we must kill every terrorist.” We have to get past that. Kurds are brother citizens of the Turkish Republic. Every citizen has rights. They should be applied equally to all. There is also this existential fear in the Turkish soul that comes from the “Sèvres Syndrome.” One thing you see all through Turkish history is that Turkey does not stay isolated from the currents in the world. Even under Sultan Selim III, the French Revolution had an impact here. Then in the 19th century, the democratization in Europe had an impact here. This ideology of positivism in Europe really affected Mustafa Kemal and also had a negative effect in the 1930s. Europe embraced racist nationalism and the suppression of minorities. That also had an influence in Turkey. Then, after World War II, the United Nations was founded; countries were supposed to be more democratic. That's when we had the first election, multi-party system and [late Prime Minister Adnan] Menderes came in. In the 1980s and the early 1990s, the Cold War was ending, and countries were opening up to the market economy. There was Turgut Özal. Now the world is getting to a point where we want to resolve domestic conflicts democratically and peacefully. Turkey cannot remain apart from this.

You also said that Turkey is trying to become a global power and opening embassies in far-off places such as Latin America and Africa. There are also a lot of Turkish schools in those areas. What do you think of these?

I guess you can argue that there is going to be an Islamic component to this project, and this might be the best Islamic component you could have. Again, this requires an evolution in Turkey. But Turkey is playing a stabilizing role. As for Turkey really having an influence in Africa or in Latin America, we are a long way from that yet. Let's work on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, etc. Once Turkey establishes itself in the region, then we can think about bigger projects. But if you look 50 years ahead, if Turkey can succeed, it's reasonable. However, the upper limit is Turkey resolving the problems in the neighborhood. You've got to get those. As long as the Kurdish conflict is not solved, and Armenia and Cyprus are not solved, the amount that Turkey can do in the world is limited.

Are you following the Ergenekon investigation?

How can you not? When it started, it was positive for many Turks. Some corners of the carpet are being turned up and the dirt underneath is being brought to light. But it seemed to run a bit out of control. I am wondering if it is being used politically by some people. It is good as long as it is kept within the limits that evidence proves and it doesn't just become a witch hunt against people with different ideas.

What did you think when you heard about the document published recently by Taraf daily allegedly detailing a smear campaign organized by the military against the ruling party and the Gülen movement?

I found it very troubling. I don't think we know the whole story yet. So there are three possibilities. Either it is a project of the General Staff or it is a project of someone in the army who is not connected to the General Staff or it is a fake. There is now journalism that brings it to light - - it's good.

Considering the fact that the military used to be so untouchable in the past -- as you know very well from the 1990s when you were here…

Yes. The role of the military in Turkey has changed a lot. And it has to change more because in relation to what the world wants, armies do not participate in politics.

The United States has been supporting the Turkish military…

That was true in the past.

What has changed now?

Support for civilian democracy is going to be ever stronger under the Obama administration. We will not subordinate our desire for democracy to our desire for security.

Do you think we will see some concrete steps concerning US relations with the Turkish military…

I certainly think that there will be no covert encouragement to the military to continue to play a role. For example, after the March 2003 vote about the Iraq war, one American official [former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz] went on television and said, “I was disappointed that the military didn't step up and play a role.” This was terrible. It's almost like encouraging a coup. You won't hear that anymore.

Interview published June 21st, 2009. Available online: http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=178650&bolum=8

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies and Armenian Deaths

Huffington Post
June 5, 2009

On April 24, 2009--Armenian Remembrance Day-- President Barack Obama issued a statement "remember[ing] the 1.5 million Armenian [deaths] in the final days of the Ottoman Empire." The President stumbled.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and the number of Armenians who are claimed by Armenians and their echo chambers to have died in an alleged World War I genocide. Almost a century later, the number of deaths they assert oscillates between 1.5-2 million. But the best contemporary estimates by Armenians or their sympathizers were 300,000-750,000 (compared with 2.4 million Ottoman Muslim deaths in Anatolia). Further, not a single one of those deaths necessarily falls within the definition of genocide in the authoritative Genocide Convention of 1948. It requires proof that the accused was responsible for the physical destruction of a group in whole or in substantial part specifically because of their race, nationality, religion, or ethnicity. A political or military motivation for a death falls outside the definition.

Immediately after the war, when events and memories were fresh, Armenians had no incentive to concoct high casualty figures or genocidal motivations for their deaths. Their objective was statehood. Armenians were encouraged by the self-determination concept in President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, (while conveniently forgetting that they were a minority in Eastern Anatolia where they hoped to found a new nation). Armenian leaders pointed to their military contribution to defeating the Ottomans and population figures that would sustain an Armenian nation.

Boghus Nubar, then Head of the Armenian Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference (1919), wrote to the French Foreign Minister Stephen Pichon: "The Armenians have been, since the beginning of the war, de facto belligerents, as you yourself have acknowledged, since they have fought alongside the Allies on all fronts, enduring heavy sacrifices and great suffering for the sake of their unshakable attachment to the cause of the Entente...." Nubar had earlier written to the Foreign Minister on October 29, 1918, that Armenians had earned their independence: "We have fought for it. We have poured out our blood for it without stint. Our people played a gallant part in the armies that won the victory."

When their quest for statehood shipwrecked on the Treaty of Lausanne and annexation by the Soviet Union in 1921, Armenians revised their soundtrack to endorse a contrived genocide thesis. It seeks a "pound of flesh" from the Republic of Turkey in the form of recognition, reparations, and boundary changes. To make their case more convincing, Armenians hiked the number of deaths. They also altered their story line from having died as belligerents against the Turks to having perished like unarmed helpless lambs.

Vahan Vardapet, an Armenian cleric, estimated a prewar Ottoman Armenian population of 1.26 million. At the Peace Conference, Armenian leader Nubar stated that 280,000 remained in the Empire and 700,000 had emigrated elsewhere. Accepting those Armenian figures, the number of dead would be 280,000. George Montgomery of the Armenia-American Society estimated a prewar Armenian population of 1.4-1.6 million, and a casualty figure of 500,000 or less. Armenian Van Cardashian, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1919, placed the number of Armenian dead at 750,000, i.e., a prewar population of 1.5 million and a post-war figure of 750,000.

After statehood was lost, Armenians turned to their genocide playbook which exploited Christian bigotries and contempt for Ottoman Muslims. They remembered earlier successful anti-Ottoman propaganda. United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during the war, Henry Morganthau, was openly racist and devoted to propaganda. On November 26, 1917, Morgenthau confessed in a letter to President Wilson that he intended to write a book vilifying Turks and Germans to, "win a victory for the war policy of the government." In his biography, "Ambassador Morgenthau's Story," Morgenthau betrays his racist hatred toward Turks ("humanity and civilization never for a moment enters their mind") and unconditional admiration for Armenians ("They are so superior to the Turks intellectually and morally.").

British Prime Minister Gladstone's histrionic figure of 60,000 Bulgarian Christians slaughtered in 1876 captured the imagination of the west. The true figure later provided by a British Ambassador was 3,500--including Turks who were first slain by the Christians.

From 280,000-750,000, Armenians initially raised their death count to 800,000 to test the credibility waters. It passed muster with uninformed politicians easily influenced by campaign contributions and voting clout. Armenians then jumped the number to 1.5 million, and then 1.8 million by Armenian historian Kevork Aslan. For the last decades, an Armenian majority seems to have settled on the 1.5 million death plateau--which still exceeds their contemporary estimates by 200 to 500 percent. They are now testing the waters at 2.5-3 million killed as their chances for a congressional genocide resolution recede. It speaks volumes that champions of the inflated death figures have no explanation for why Armenians on the scene would have erred. Think of the absurdity of discarding the current death count of Afghan civilians in the United States-Afghan war in favor of a number deduced in the year 2109!

Armenians have a genuine tale of woe. It largely overlaps with the tale of tragedy and suffering that can be told by Ottoman Muslims during the war years: 2.4 million deaths in Anatolia, ethnic cleansing, starvation, malnutrition, untreated epidemics, and traumatic privations of war under a decrepit and collapsing Empire.

Unskewed historical truth is the antechamber of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. That is why the Government of Turkey has proposed an international commission of impartial and independent experts with access to all relevant archives to determine the number and characterization of World War I deaths. Armenians are balking because they are skeptical of their own figures and accusations.

*Bruce Fein is a resident scholar at the Turkish Coalition of America.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Obama Boosts US Image, Approval Doubles in Turkey

June 4, 2009

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK, June 4 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama has boosted his country's image abroad by six points since his election in November with a 22-nation poll on Thursday showing 42 percent of people expressing a favorable view of America.

As Obama prepares to speak to the Muslim world in Cairo in a bid to repair tattered U.S. relations, the Ipsos/Reuters survey showed a 25 point jump in favorable views of America in Turkey, the only majority Muslim nation polled, to 49 percent.

The poll was taken between April 14 and May 7, shortly after Obama visited Istanbul and met with religious leaders as part of a bid to unite moderates of faiths against extremism.

"This suggests that any sort of strategy to engage with the Muslim world puts a premium on him as the messenger and going there and talking to them," said Clifford Young of Ipsos Global Public Affairs, the international market research and polling company that carried out the online poll of 22,000 people.

"There's this very positive Obama effect and he is contributing significantly to increasing the U.S. credibility around the world," he said.

In India, where the Muslim population is a minority but still one of the largest in the world at 140 million or double the number of Turkish Muslims, the positive view of America rose one point to 73 percent, while in China, where there are about 20 million Muslims, it rose eight points to 42 percent.

Obama, whose father was Muslim and who lived as a boy in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, hopes to mend a U.S. image damaged by former President George W. Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the treatment of U.S. military detainees.

He visited Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and met with King Abdullah. On Thursday the first black U.S. president will speak to the Muslim world when he gives an address in Egypt.


An Ipsos poll of 7,000 people in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan in March found that an average 48 percent had a favorable view of Obama, while 33 percent had a positive view of the United States.

Obama's Middle East trip and planned Cairo speech drew condemnation from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who said in a taped message that the U.S. leader had planted seeds for "revenge and hatred" towards America in the Muslim world.

"A six percent improvement in six months at the global level -- that's fairly significant," Young said. "Obama's especially having an effect in those countries that had the most doubt about the United States."

"We're seeing a honeymoon effect," Young said. "That doesn't necessarily mean it has to decline, it means it has to be reinforced with concrete actions on the ground."

Along with Turkey, six other countries posted double digit rises in favorable views toward America -- France, 13 points to 39 percent, Belgium, 12 points to 36 percent, Germany, 11 points to 31 percent, The Netherlands, 11 points to 27 percent, Canada, 10 points to 44 percent, and Spain, 10 points to 43 percent.

Only three of the 22 countries polled did not record any increase in the positive image of America -- Russia remained unchanged at 18 percent, the lowest ranking, while in Poland it dropped four points to 48 percent, and the Czech Republic fell one point to 35 percent.
Ipsos polled people in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia, India, Russia, Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, and Britain.

The 22 countries polled make up 75 percent of the world's gross domestic product.Respondents in the online poll were recruited and screened, the survey said. The results are then balanced by age, gender, city population and education levels. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent

Turkish-American Group Blocks Pro-Genocide Bill

Today’s Zaman
June 3, 2009

The Turkish-American Legal Defense Fund (TALDF) has announced that a bill called the Justice for Genocide Victims Bill, which was introduced by California Assembly member Paul Krekorian, has been blocked by California Appropriations Committee Chairman Kevin de Leon.

The bill, known as Assembly Bill 961 (AB 961), was introduced in early 2009 by Assembly member Krekorian, a Democrat elected to the California state legislature in 2006. Krekorian tried to persuade the assembly by saying that AB 961 would prevent California from awarding contracts to companies that have profited from genocide. However, TALDF insistently objected to the bill and presented to the assembly two separate written statements explaining why they oppose the bill.

“The United States as a whole maintains a single foreign policy as authorized by the Constitution. The individual states may not intrude upon or compromise this policy. The framers of the Constitution recognized that the peoples of the several states must sink or swim together, and that in the long run, security and national interests are made by the union and not in a foreign policy Tower of Babel. The intent of AB 961 to create a foreign policy for California makes it unconstitutional,” said one of the statements introduced to the Committee on Business and Professions and the Committee on Judiciary of the California State Assembly.

TALDF has expressed pleasure at the fact that the rejection of AB 961 has actually sent a message to all of the states that no individual state, according to the Constitution, should deal with foreign policy.

TALDF, founded last year, assists Turkish-Americans with their constitutional citizenship rights.
Meanwhile, the English-language Asbarez newspaper reported recently that Senate Bill 234 (SB 234), authored by California Senator Mark Wyland (R-northern San Diego County) is now on its way to the full Senate floor for consideration. Known as the Genocide Awareness Act, the bill instructs the California State Curriculum Commission to consider the inclusion of an oral history component in its already mandated genocide education curriculum.

Asbarez noted that Turkish Coalition of America board member Bruce Fein traveled from Washington, D.C., in an effort to undermine SB 234 as well as AB 961.