March 23, 2005 Special Dispatch No. 883

Turkish Expressions of Solidarity with Syria

March 23, 2005
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 883

The Turkish media has recently expressed a high level of solidarity with Syria directed primarily against the U.S. It called upon Turks to travel to Syria in order to demonstrate solidarity in the face of alleged American military plans against the Syrian regime. [1]

Next month Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer will conduct his visit to Damascus, as planned. This visit was the basis for a further deterioration of U.S.-Turkish relations, following a comment by U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman which was interpreted as criticism of Sezer's visit. [2] The comment aroused harsh reactions in the Turkish media, with widespread calls for his removal from Turkey. The subsequent resignation of Ambassador Edelman was reported by the Turkish media with a sense of victory.

The following are excerpts from a few articles in the Turkish press about the ongoing diplomatic tension between Turkey and U.S. (the format of the text appears as in the original):

Milliyet on the Subject of Damascus: Ankara Looks Out of Step with the World and in Tune with Hizbullah

Columnist Yasemin Çongar of Milliyet, the second largest, mainstream, moderate Turkish daily, wrote: [3]

"If you follow the world agenda only through the voices and pens in Turkey, you can be fooled by the recent messages about Syria. Please don't!

"Don't, because by looking at 'some anti-war intellectuals' going to Damascus to show solidarity with Syria, you might come to think that 'the USA might [really] be planning to attack Syria after Iraq, and that the bombings are imminent.' If you do, you would be very wrong.

"Your respect to the status and the personality of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul might push you to believe his recent statement, which said: 'Syrian leader Bashar Assad is very much loved by his people and must be strengthened.' Don't [believe it]!

"[…] Looking at the majority of the many recent columns in the Turkish newspapers dealing with Syria, you might also think that the U.S., out of the blue and all by itself, is starting a campaign against Syria. Beware!

"If you are not careful, you might be carried away to believe that the assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri benefited the U.S. and Israel and that it opened the way for them to put pressure on Syria. And you might miss hearing the combined voices of France, England, Germany, in fact all of the European Union, and of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Union, Russia and the United Nations (with its Resolution 1559 of September 2004). Most importantly, you would be closing your ears to the voice of the Lebanese people.

"[…] Don't be blinded not to see the winds of change towards democratization blowing in the region, because of those [journalists] who continuously pump you with animosity to the U.S.

"[…] The new statements by the U.S. government show that their argument is picking up strength from the elections in Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq, as well as the anti-Syria demonstrations in Beirut.

"This is the argument that there are [important] steps being taken on the way to democracy in the larger Middle East, and [all these developments] are not coincidental or unrelated.

"Washington is accusing the countries in the region with anti-democratic regimes for being 'against the new current' and pushing for change in those countries (including in Saudi Arabia and Egypt).

"President Bush and Secretary of State Rice are criticizing the capitals in the region that do not follow the trend toward democratization and accuse them of being 'out of step.' They see the upcoming municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, and the recent decisions by Egypt and Qatar to hold elections as 'even if imperfect, important beginnings for democracy.'

"How Ankara, which gives the impression that, regarding Syria, it is out of step with the world, but in harmony with Hizbullah, will catch up with these regional changes remains to be seen."

Turkish Media Reporting on Ambassador's Comment: "A 'Radikal' Contribution to Anti-Americanism"

Erdal Guven, of the center-left liberal daily Radikal, critical of the way his paper had reported on the remarks by Ambassador Edelman, wrote: [4]

"On March 14, USA's Ambassador in Ankara Eric Edelman was in Bursa. One of the reporters there asked him a question. The question was: 'There is news in today's papers that President Sezer will go to Syria at the pre-planned time, despite America's expectations for postponement. What are your evaluations on that?'

"Edelman answered: 'The important point is that the international community is in consensus behind Resolution 1559 of the U.N. Security Council. This resolution was jointly prepared by France and the U.S., and calls for immediate withdrawal of all Syrian forces from Lebanon and arming of the Lebanese militias. This [position] has international support. During President George W. Bush's visit to Europe, this agreement was confirmed by Chirac, Schroeder, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. We believe this is the way to follow, in order to maintain the stability in the region. We hope Turkey will join this international coalition. Of course, evaluating this position of the international community is Turkey's decision.'

"Those were Edelman's words. Words that were clear, comprehensible and said in a well defined context…

"[…] Now let's look at the way they were presented at Radikal on March 15, 2005: […] The opening sentence of the news: 'U.S. Ambassador in Ankara Eric Edelman yesterday gave Turkey an ultimatum-like message about Syria.' Second sentence goes like this: 'Edelman warned that if Turkey does not join in the international demands of Syria to pull out of Lebanon, it [Turkey] will remain outside the international community.'

"An ambassador, even of a superpower, cannot give 'ultimatum-like' messages to a country where he serves. […]

"You read [the ambassador's words] above: Edelman did not give Turkey 'ultimatum-like' messages, did not claim 'Turkey would be left outside the international community, if it did not join the demands for Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon' and did not say 'put pressure on Syria.'

"The American Embassy said in a statement that Edelman's words were distorted. […] Of course, this statement was not given to Radikal alone. The subject was reported in the same [distorted] manner by other newspapers as well.

"No doubt, the reason for 'perception' to overshadow 'the essence' [the facts] was due to the anti-Americanism prevalent in Turkey. Whether it is right or wrong, anti-Americanism is a political stand, and should not be attached to news reporting. News is news.

"In relation to this particular news, we as Radikal have gotten a failing grade. Obviously we made a 'Radikal' [radical] contribution to the anti-Americanism in Turkey."

Milliyet: U.S. Ambassador – "Persona Non Grata"

Milliyet columnist Can Dündar wrote, in an article titled "Persona Non Grata:" [5]

"When a diplomat makes a public statement regarding the domestic and foreign policy of the country where he serves, this is called 'diplomatic interference.'

"Respectable countries can demand the immediate removal of a diplomat who behaves in that manner.

"The U.N. confirmed this in the framework of the 1961 'Vienna agreement on Diplomatic Relations.'

"A diplomat who is regarded as 'persona non grata' must pack his suitcase and return to his country the next day.

"Asked on March 14 about [Turkish] President Sezer's possible visit to Syria, U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman said: 'I hope Turkey will join the international consensus supporting the rapid withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon,' thus giving the message 'don't go.'

"[…] With Edelman, Turkey-USA relations have seen the worst period.

"If Turkey today is the leader in the race of 'America hating countries,' Edelman has played a major part in it.

[…] The Turkish people is moving toward giving up their 200-year-old dream of westernization, because of the Westerners who keep waving their fingers at us and tell us what to do and what not to do […] with the attitude of colonial governors.

"[…] It is pleasing that despite such pressures our President reconfirmed that he will be going to Damascus.

"For Turkey to continue its efforts to develop good relations with our neighbors is the best answer to such [U.S.] pressures.

"To show the door to the 'unwanted man' is the other good answer."

AKP Unofficial Mouthpiece: "Edelman Must Go"

Columnist Ahmet Kekeç of the Islamist daily Yeni Şafak, known as the unofficial mouthpiece of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) wrote: [6]

"It's been two years that I am writing 'this Ambassador will cause a lot of headache'… Yes, he will [have to] do all that is dictated by the interests of the country he represents. But Edelman is not mindful of the sensitivities in the country where he serves and is not acting in accordance with the interests of the country he represents.

"A rude and crude diplomat.

"His style is problematic, his attitude is problematic, and his policy (whatever that may be) is problematic.

"In the past he had been on our [Yeni Şafak] case. He still is.

"There was that news about the 'savage [sexual] assault [by U.S. soldiers] in Iraq' which [later] we at Yeni Şafak had corrected. The Ambassador was furious and started bashing our newspaper everywhere. In revenge, he first documented the relationship (!) between Yani Şafak and certain porn sites and then […] used a high circulation newspaper to disseminate distorted news. Not satisfied with this, he resorted to a psychological attrition campaign [against Yeni Şafak].

"[…] We [in Turkey] were angry upon reading the ugly (arrogant) article of Robert Pollock, the Wall Street Journal editor; and we were astonished at how he had obtained all his information. We shouldn't be astonished. Things that Pollock wrote were in line with Edelman's statements. […]

"The Ambassador did nothing to alleviate our annoyance. As a matter of fact, he acted as if he was on a 'special mission' to ruin the relations between Turkey and America.

"As a result [of all this] he now is declared an 'unwanted man.' […]

"Edelman must go. […]"

Nationalist Islamic Daily: Suspicions About Hariri's Murder Focus on the U.S. and Israel

In an article in the nationalist-Islamic daily newspaper Yenicağ, columnist Ferruh Sezgin asks: [7]

"[…] Edelman in his statement shows [us] the stick and hints: 'If Sezer goes to Syria, we will distance Turkey from the international community.' […]

"[…] I keep wondering about [the question] 'on whose behalf Edelman speaks.'

"On behalf of the U.S., of which he is a citizen and a high-ranking official, or the country of his race Israel? Which one would you serve, if you were Edelman?... Every kind of pressure is being applied to prevent Sezer from going to Syria.

"But it is becoming more and more apparent that the culprit in Hariri's murder, which they use as a pretext, is not Syria. As the fog lifts, suspicions are focusing on [the] U.S.-Israel [duo].

"[…] İbrahim Karagül of Yeni Şafak, in his March 15 article, elaborated that Hariri was a pan-Arabist and was opposed to a U.S. airbase in the north of Lebanon […] which would be built in the model of El-Udeid base in Qatar, for covert operations against the Assad regime and to safeguard the oil pipelines of Baku-Tiflis-Ceyhan and Mosul-Kerkuk-Ceyhan. […]

"Why was Hariri murdered?

"Will our [Turkish] Foreign Office brief our President, prior to his visit in Syria […] about these recent developments? The building of a large U.S. airbase in the north of Lebanon may necessitate the shaping of a Turkey-Syria 'joint stand.'"

Hürriyet: Colonial Governor

In an article in the largest mainstream moderate daily Hürriyet, columnist Oktay Ekşi wrote: [8]

"[…] The U.S. Ambassador in Ankara who at every possible opportunity expressed 'displeasure' about President Ahmet Necdet Sezer's upcoming visit to Syria, claims he has made no insinuations regarding Sezer's Syria visit.

"So who was the one who kept expressing displeasure about this visit?

"[Or] was it Zambia's ambassador who was showing Turkey the 'stick,' when talking about Syria's pull out of Lebanon?

"No, Edelman never makes any such insinuations.

"[…] Let no one be fooled. It is obvious that Ambassador Edelman saw in himself the authority to try and prevent the visit President Sezer will pay to Syria. But as you read in yesterday's papers, he received a short and clear response from Sezer: 'Most certainly, we will go!.'

"We also think that [the President's] decision which was openly backed by the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, is the right one.

"[…] It is clear that the source of the differences of the views [between Turkey and the U.S.] is the question, 'should Turkey be run by Washington or Ankara?'

"We believe that Turkey is and should be run by Ankara."

Sabah: Bye Bye…

In an article in the popular mainstream moderate daily Sabah, columnist Umur Talu wrote: [9]

"It is not correct to talk behind somebody's back. But if that somebody has not yet left, and has still not 'grasped' [certain things] one can talk about him. To the ambassador who has recently resigned here [in Ankara] but who probably will go to a [more important] key position […] and take his place in the heart of the nucleus that designs USA's policies, goodbye from us.

"[…] The 'resigned' ambassador of the U.S. who could not digest Turkey's values, feelings, reactions […] and the different, opposing views in the general media as a 'necessity of democracy,' unleashed on us his deep indigestions in the form of a 'propaganda war.' […]

"[…] Instead of truths to be found and voiced, he [Edelman] released distortions like 'anti-Americanism' or 'anti-Semitism' or 'false news' and in doing so he crossed all professional lines and helped create a 'cloud of threats.'

"In response to what he perceived was a 'local hatred.' he developed his own 'hatred.' […]"

[1] Turkish intellectuals indeed paid highly publicized visits to Syria. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 874, "Turkish Media on the Anniversary of the March 1, 2003 Parliamentary Resolution Not Allowing U.S. Troops to Open a Northern Front Against Iraq from Turkish Soil," March 8, 2005, Turkish Media on the Anniversary of the March 1, 2003 Parliamentary Resolution Not Allowing U.S. Troops to Open a Northern Front against Iraq from Turkish Soil.

[2] Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer's upcoming visit to Syria was criticized by the leader of the Lebanese opposition Walid Jumblatt in an interview on March 21, 2005, in the Turkish daily Tercuman (Turkey), conducted by Cengiz Candar. According to the article, Walid said of the official visit "Mish Mnih," or "It is not good." When asked how he evaluates Sezer's expected visit to Syria, Jumblatt was quoted as saying: "This is completely up to Turkey and we cannot interfere in Turkey's decisions. [...] Turkey got rid of military regime and became a democracy.We too want to get rid of the Syrian military and the Muhabarat regime and build our democracy.The country in this region that would best understand this is Turkey… The whole world supports the Lebanese democracy. They are behind Lebanon. Turkish authorities know this. Therefore we expect them to act accordingly."

[3] Milliyet (Turkey), March 7, 2005.

[4] Radikal (Turkey), March 18, 2005.

[5] Milliyet (Turkey), March 17, 2005.

[6] Yeni Safak (Turkey), March 17, 2005.

[7] Yenicağ (Turkey), March 17, 2005.

[8] Hürriyet (Turkey), March 18, 2005.

[9] Sabah (Turkey), March 20, 2005.

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