Thursday, June 08, 2006

diplomats do business in Turkey

Miguel points to this US/Turk symposium from May 18.

"Now we have a report--a package that we want to show coming from Washington from--Steve Roberts for America Abroad Media. He in a way put together how the US--the Washington and the public opinion of the United States of America sees or perceives Turkey. Let's watch it first and then we'll continue with our special program.

[Begin Video Clip]

Steve Roberts: More than three years have passed since the Iraq War triggered a bitter dispute between the United States and Turkey. US officials now emphasize the positive describing the relationship as being in a strong upswing.

Mathew Bryza: Since last June when Prime Minister ErdoĆ°an visited and met with the President in the Oval Office, we have worked systematically to develop and re-establish a sense of partnership in US/Turkish relations and I feel pretty strong momentum right now.

Steve Roberts: But outside the Government there is real disagreement among analysts and Washington about the state of the relationship.

Michael Rubin: Washington is more concerned about the future of Turkey than meets the eye. On one hand, diplomats will say everything is fine; many former diplomats, many of whom have consultancies in Turkey or do business in Turkey will say everything is fine, but in their hearts of hearts people are worried.

Mark Parris: US/Turkish relations are still trying to find their footing after two or three years where the two sides have had difficulty communicating with one another.


Steve Roberts: From Washington's perspective developments inside Turkey have also created new challenges for US/Turkish relations. For many in the United States the anti-American sentiment reflected in Turkey's smash hit movie Valley of the Wolves was deeply disturbing.

Michael Rubin: The fact that the Prime Minister saw it two weeks before its showing, saw its rabid anti-Americanism, frankly its rabid anti-Semitism which goes against the grain of Turkish tolerance and then sent his wife and the Speaker of the Parliament to see the movie and endorse it is shameful.

Mathew Bryza: The fact that some people decided to embrace it as a triumph that reflects truth or reality, that worries us because that film deeply--I mean based on my--my--the reviews I read of it that film deeply distorts the reality of US/Turkish relations, so that worries us.

Steve Roberts: Rightly or wrongly the debate inside Turkey over the role of Islam and Turkish society and public life is causing concern in the United States. More than a few observers in Washington are beginning to question the AKP Government's commitment to secular democracy.

Michael Rubin: The United States will respect the democratic choice of all Turks, but without a doubt it does affect the relationship and without a doubt the relationship is strained between the White House and the AKP.


Steve Roberts: On the surface at least, the Bush Administration does not seem concerned by the strength of Turkish secularism. Instead it sees Turkey's debates as a reflection of a mature democracy.

Mathew Bryza: Much of Turkey is conservative, much of Turkey looks toward the West and--and rapid modernization, so that tension is inevitable in Turkish society. So I'm not saying that Turkey is reaching some sort of a boiling point or a crisis point. I know some people want to make that argument. I don't see Turkey reaching a crisis point; I just see very vibrant politics.

Steve Roberts: But there is no denying that there is disagreement in Washington and in the mainstream American media about whether Turkey remains fully committed to its Western orientation.

Mark Parris: I know that people try to make the case that this is something fundamentally different we haven't seen before and Turkey is veering off in some adventuristic direction. I simply don't think the facts justify such a dramatic and alarmist vision.

Michael Rubin: The Bush Administration is worried and it goes deeper than the Bush Administration. People in Congress are worried; people within the State Department, the permanent bureaucracy that will be here after Bush leaves whether it's Republicans or Democrats in the White House are worried. The dialogue with regard to Turkey has shifted.


[End Video Clip]"

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