Archive for the ‘Turkey’ Category

Can Obama Reverse Early Losses in Europe?

March 28, 2009

For many Europeans, he had them at hello.  But over the past few months, European leaders have become less enamored with Baraco Obama…

Can he win them back as he starts his trip next week?

Last summer in Europe: the people were at his feet.  Now?


By Toby Harnden
The Telegraph (UK)

When he visited Europe last July, Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, stood before 200,000 in Berlin’s Tiergarten park to declare his “global citizenship” and call on the “people of the world” to “come together to save this planet”. It was heady stuff, and the rapturous reception was one befitting a new political messiah after eight wilderness years. Back in the United States, the young senator ended his stump speeches with a vow to “change the world”. Americans craved affection from abroad. Europeans were eager to fall in love.

But that was eight months ago, and the innocence of that summer has started to evaporate. Mr Obama has become the first black man to occupy the White House, but the world is in the grip of the worst economic depression since the Thirties, with no path back to prosperity in sight.
While the troop surge in Iraq that Mr Obama so vehemently opposed has succeeded beyond his imaginings, the “good war” he championed in Afghanistan is spiralling downwards and there are dark mutterings on the Left about it becoming his Vietnam.

For all the mutual goodwill, the transatlantic policy battle-lines are drawn. The Americans want additional economic stimulus measures to be taken across the globe. The Europeans are preoccupied with a supra-national financial regulation structure.

Mr Obama’s demands for more European boots on the ground in Afghanistan have already been rejected by the French and Germans.

As the new American commander-in-chief embarks on his first extended foreign trip in Air Force One, stopping in London for the G20 summit, Strasbourg for a gathering of Nato, and going on to Prague, Ankara and Istanbul, the sheen is already wearing off his shiny new presidency at home.

The leak-proof, supremely well-organised campaign and the post-election transition that was hailed as being one of the smoothest in history are over. They have given way to an at times stumbling administration that struggles to fill the cabinet, botches its message and has all but abandoned the bipartisanship candidate Mr Obama promised.

US bank chiefs to meet with President Obama

Far from changing the world, Mr Obama has barely looked over his shoulder at it

Far from changing the world, Mr Obama has barely looked over his shoulder at it. The person he has entrusted his foreign policy to is Hillary Clinton, a bitter campaign rival whose diplomatic credentials he once mocked. To appoint her Secretary of State was perhaps an ominous sign, a move designed to keep her from challenging him domestically.

During his first, chaotic weeks in power, Mr Obama’s focus has been almost entirely domestic. Key diplomatic posts remain empty. No ambassador is in place in London or Paris. Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, has grumbled that it has been almost impossible to organise next week’s G20 summit in Docklands because White House officials are missing in action. “There is nobody there,” he says. “You cannot believe how difficult it is.”

Obama was elected as the “unBush”, and his image of being everything his Texan predecessor wasn’t has given him stratospheric popularity ratings overseas that still endure. When he took office, a Financial Times/Harris poll found that 68 per cent of Americans believed he would have a “positive impact on the course of international events”. In France, this figure was 92 per cent, in Italy 90 per cent, Spain 85 per cent and Britain – where perhaps some saw echoes of the Tony Blair in 1997 who went on to dash so many hopes – 77 per cent.

During his more multilateral second term, George W. Bush went some way to rebuilding fractured transatlantic ties. But recognition of this did not penetrate much deeper than the level of his fellow world leaders and the political classes. Ordinary Europeans remained intensely sceptical.

The reverse was true with Mr Obama. In the corridors of the Foreign Office and Quai D’Orsay, however, there is already some disappointment. Nile Gardiner, the director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, is a touch hyperbolic when he hazards that foreign governments now see the Obama administration as “poorly managed, ineffective, inept and extremely bad at getting its message across”. But there are significant rumblings of concern.

Gordon Brown’s visit to Washington earlier this month was a public relations fiasco. Minutes before his meeting with Mr Obama in the Oval Office, British officials were still negotiating details with reluctant White House aides.

Although Mr Obama spoke of the “special relationship”, he appeared supremely uninterested in Mr Brown and what he had to say. He did not echo the Prime Minister’s call for a “global new deal” on the economy. The usual pomp and ceremony was absent at the White House.

While the fuss over his present to Mr Brown of 25 DVDs of American movies that were rumoured to be incompatible with British DVD players was overblown, the blunder in protocol swiftly came to be viewed as the kind of crass ignorance more commonly – though often unfairly – associated with his predecessor.

When Mrs Clinton met Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, in Geneva, she cheerily handed him a large red button in a yellow case, with the words “reset” and “peregruzka” written on it in Latin rather than Cyrillic script. It was a reference to the call from Joe Biden, the Vice-President, for a “resetting” of the US-Russian relationship.

“We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” Clinton asked.

“You got it wrong,” responded Lavrov, who informed her that “peregruzka” meant “overcharge”.

The schoolboy error had happened because the State Department’s cadre of Russian translators had been bypassed in favour of Mrs Clinton’s political team, who had turned to a Russian speaker who was not up to date with computer terminology.

Little of this will matter to ordinary Europeans, who view Mr Obama and his wife Michelle as a 21st-century version of the Kennedys. For Europeans, they symbolise everything America could be. “There’s a certain vicarious sentiment in Europe … Obama is so popular in part because they see the US as enjoying a multiculturalism they don’t have and won’t have for a long time,” says Charles Kupchan, a Council on Foreign Relations fellow and former senior Clinton administration official.

“Europeans still struggle with these issues and have done a much less impressive job in integrating minorities into the social mainstream, and that gives Obama enormous appeal just as a human being. I expect we shall see that outpouring when he is in Europe.”

This will be both an asset and a burden to Obama on his grand tour. For some in Europe, the reality of a President Obama may disappoint. “They may be naively surprised that Barack Obama is an American and not a European in drag,” says Mark Kirk, a Republican who is the only member of the House of Representatives to have served in Afghanistan.

Whatever their policy reservations, European leaders such as Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel are clamouring to bask in the reflected glory of the American president. Sarkozy worked assiduously to secure an extra stop in France for Mr Obama and was bitterly disappointed when the White House demurred, Strasbourg not withstanding.

If Mr Obama is skilful, he will use this to secure policy concessions. “He’s more popular than European presidents and prime ministers in their own countries,” says Kirk. “He’s saying the right things on diplomacy with Iran and climate change. There’s a danger for European leaders if they don’t give him what he’s asking for.”

And if he doesn’t, timing may be partly to blame. The G20 and Nato summits have come uncomfortably early for Mr Obama. In London, there will probably not be enough agreement on the global economy for much more than a vapid joint statement of common aims. It was only yesterday that Mr Obama announced the results of his own internal review of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy – leaving little time to twist the arms of Nato allies.

The symbolism of Mr Obama addressing the Islamic world from Turkey, a Muslim country at the intersection of Europe and Asia, will be undeniably powerful. Whether his first major overseas trip will mark the moment Mr Obama matures from a personification of American possibility into a global leader who can take tough choices and secure concrete results remains an open question.

Global Recession, Security Challenges Test Obama’s Popularity Among World Leaders


Israel urges Turkey to rethink its ties with Hamas and Iran

February 1, 2009

Brushing off fierce Turkish censure of its offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Israel urged Ankara on Sunday to consider cooling ties with the Palestinian Islamists and Iran.

The Israel Defense Forces campaign, which ended in a Jan. 18 truce, triggered protests from Turkey culminating in a shouting match last week between its Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum.


Israeli officials have tried to play down the schism with Muslim, mostly secular Turkey, a key ally of Israel.

Read the rest:

 Israeli President, Turkey PM In “Amicable” Conversation; Some Media Magnifies Dispute

Turkey Tells Obama: Redefine Terrorism; Bush Misunderestimated “Realities” of Middle East, Hezbollah Says

 Diplomatic Conduct Explodes Over Israel, Gaza: Turkey’s PM Hero At Home


Israeli President, Turkey PM In “Amicable” Conversation; Some Media Magnifies Dispute

January 30, 2009

CNN and other impartial media are downplaying the discussion between Turkey’s  Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The media in Turkey and elsewhere are playing up the dust up, claiming Israel insulted Turkey and the Israeli side apologized.

That just isn’t so, Israel says.

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan leaves the stage Thursday, as Israeli President Shimon Peres sits, left. 

Above: Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan leaves the stage Thursday, as Israeli President Shimon Peres sits, left. Some media said Erdogan “stormed” out.

Thankfully, some media remain unbiased and impartial, as we see in this CNN report:

This event highlights the volatility of the world situation and how the media can add to or slow down disagreements.

Gaza Fight Thunders Across Middle East, Britain, France, Media

Turkey Tells Obama: Redefine Terrorism; Bush Misunderestimated “Realities” of Middle East, Hezbollah Says

January 30, 2009

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear that he doesn’t much like the definition of terrorism adopted after 9-11 by George W. Bush.

Erdogan, whose country has played a key role in trying to mediate among Israel and Syria and the Palestinians, said Obama’s new Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, will be in Turkey for talks Sunday.

“President Obama must redefine terror and terrorist organizations” and make a new policy for the Middle east and elsewhere.

When 9-11 happened and President Bush declared the “war on terror, many though israel immediately looked at palestinians as terrorists, Russia looked at Chechens the same way, China saw Tibetans as terrorist and so it went around the globe.

No maybe a re-alignment or new definitions are in order.

In his remarks toward President Obama and the U.S., most observers said the Turkish leader appeared to be referring to the US position toward Hamas and Hizbullah, which the United States considers terrorist organizations.

The Jerusalem Post:


Bush Accused of Trying to “Remake” Middle East; Misunderestimated “Realities”

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the administration of former President George W. Bush worked with its Arab allies to try and change the “realities” in Gaza before Barack Obama took office.

Nasrallah says Bush administration worked with its Arab allies to "change the realities" in Gaza.

Nasrallah says Bush administration worked with its Arab allies to “change the realities” in Gaza.

In a wide-ranging speech on Thursday marking “Freedom Day” — a celebration of the release of Hezbollah prisoners from Israeli custody — Nasrallah said the Bush administration worked with its Arab allies “in order to take advantage of the short time of Bush’s term and before (Barack) Obama takes office in order to change the realities” in Gaza.

There were no U.S. forces involved in the 22-day Israeli military operation in Gaza; the United States is a key supporter of Israel.

Read it all from CNN:

Diplomatic Conduct Explodes Over Israel, Gaza: Turkey’s PM Hero At Home

January 30, 2009

It isn’t often that two heads of state show any emotion and a public diplomatic event.  A show of anger: never.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan received a hero’s welcome upon his return to Istanbul on Friday following his public spat at the World Economic Forum in Davos with President Shimon Peres over the fighting in Gaza.

Erdogan said he had been insulted. “My responsibility is to protect the honor of the Turkish nation.”

The Prime Minister’s Office said that Erdogan assured Peres that he wasn’t angry with him, but with the organizers of the forum. The Israeli PM’s office denied Turkish media reports that Peres had apologized to Erdogan.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, Prime Minister of Turkey and Shimon ... 
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, Prime Minister of Turkey and Shimon Peres, right, President of Israel during a plenary session on the Middle East Peace at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009.  Erdogan verbally sparred with peres and then stalked off.(AP Photo/Keystone/Laurent Gillieron)

During the forum, Erdogan had become enraged over being cut off by a panel moderator after listening to an impassioned monologue by Peres defending Operation Cast Lead.

Peres’s defense was prompted by harsh criticism leveled at Israel not only by Erdogan, but also by the two other panelists, Arab League head Amr Moussa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“You are killing people,” Erdogan declared to Peres.

Jerusalem Post:


Around 3,000 supporters welcomed Mr Erdogan’s return to Istanbul, waving red and white Turkish flags and declaring the PM a hero.  See:

Gaza Day 22: Hamas Threatens “We Will Continue Battle,” Meanwhile Israel Talks “Unilateral Cease Fire”

January 17, 2009

Hamas reiterated its determination to continue its attacks against Israel despite the possibility of an Israeli cabinet decision on  Saturday Night to accept a unilateral cease-fire after three weeks of fighting in the Gaza Strip. 

Sami Abu Zuhri said Saturday that Hamas militants would keep fighting.

Iranian cleric calls for Israel’s Tzipi Livni to be shot

Israel Close to Declaration of Victory, Unilateral Cease Fire, No Matter What Hamas Says

Hamas “will not bow to invading forces, will not raise the white flag,” he said. “We will continue fighting despite our limited means.”
Zuhri was speaking in Istanbul where Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan said this week that israel should not be permitted in the United nations for ignoring UN resolutions.

Ghazi Hamdan, based in Gaza said Hamas has a clear vision that includes ending the “aggression,” a withdrawal of Israeli forces, an end to the siege and opening of the crossings.

“If any vision does not achieve these things, then we will continue in the battle on the ground,” he said.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces pounded dozens of Hamas targets  Saturday as the army kept up pressure on the Islamic militant group.

And Israel said its cabinet would vote Saturday night on a possible unilateral cease fire.

John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

From our Earlier report:
Gaza Day 22: High Expectations for Cease Fire but Fighting Rages Still

Tonight the Israel cabinet will meet to vote on a cease fire worked out by Egypt, France, Britain and others with input from Hamas and Israel.

But key to the cease fire is what Israel really wants: a Memorandum of Understanding signed yesterday by the U.S. and Isreal to prevent the rearming of Hamas by smuggling.

For two days Hamas has offered differing versions of its intentions, first agreeing to a cease fire and then rejecting provisions and continuing to send rockets into Israel.
Earlier Friday, Hamas’ Syrian-based political chief Khaled Mashaal rejected Israeli conditions for a truce and demanded an immediate opening of the besieged territory’s borders.

Mashaal  called on all Arab countries to cut ties with the Jewish state during a summit of Arab leaders in Doha, Qatar.



From the Times (UK):
Under the ceasefire plan, fighting would stop immediately for 10 days, but Israeli forces would initially remain in Gaza and the border crossings into the territory would remain closed until security arrangements were made to ensure Hamas militants did not rearm.

Salam Kanaan, Save the Children’s country director, who is based in Jerusalem, said: “Save the Children is now preparing to go into Gaza as soon as crossings open and the green light is given.

“Around three quarters of a million people there are dependent on food aid. More than 3,000 women have given birth, often with little support. And there has been absolutely no support for children suffering from the stress they have been subjected to in recent weeks. We’re poised, ready to get in there and deliver fast.”

Read more:

Gaza Wednesday Night: Fighting Continues, Cease Fire Efforts “Moving But Inconclusive”

January 7, 2009

As dark fell in Gaza this Wenesday, January 7, 2009, day 12 of the Israeli action called Cast Lead, fighting resumed between Hamas and Israeli forces in Gaza….

During the 1 PM to 4 PM humanitarian re-supply, Hamas attacked Israelis who responded.

But the day was significant still for the first stop in active combat with a three hour “time out” to allow humanitarian supplies into Gaza.

U.N. Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness said a three-hour truce is just not enough to alleviate the “deepening humanitarian crisis” in Gaza.  He wanted a longer, daily reprieve.

“We are feeding 750,000 (people) on a permanent basis,” Gunness said. “More than three hours a day are needed for that.”

Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Peter Lerner said three hours will have to be enough for now, and probably only every second day.

“We need to build on this three-hour window; we need to expand that window and let it lead to a permanent cease-fire,” Gunness said.

Israel agreed on Wednesday to send two diplomats to Cairo for cease fire planning.

Amos Gilad of the Defense Ministry and Shalom Turgeman, a political adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert  could travel to the Egyptian capital as early as Thursday.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that France is getting “very positive signals from the region” about the cease fire plan.

The plan is being put forward by France, Egypt and Turkey.

When asked about the plan, France’s President Sarkozy said “acceptance” by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  He did not mention Hamas or define further the state of agreement.

The Palestinian Authority said it supported the plan but Hamas remains “not totally engaged” according to one observer in the discussions.

Mark Regev, the Israeli spokesman sid, “Hamas cannot be allowed to rearm”

He said, “Isreal appreciates the ideas of the french President but often the devil is in the details.”

He said Israel is weakening Hamas but Hamas remains in control of the Gaza Strip and the group remains a threat to Israel….

Threats against Israel continued with a verbal attack from Hezbollah, Irael’s foe in battle in 2006.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Wednesday “all possibilities” are open against Israel and warned the Jewish state’s 2006 war with his party would resemble “a walk in the park” in the event of renewed conflict.

“We have to act as though all possibilities are real and open (against Israel) and we must always be ready for any eventuality,” said Nasrallah, whose Shiite militant party is backed by Syria and Iran.

Tens of thousands of Hezbollah supporters marched in support of Hamas today in Beirut.  They loudly protested the Israeli attack on Gaza.

From Peace and Freedom

Lebanese leftists burn effigies representing Egypt's President ... 
Lebanese leftists burn effigies representing Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak (L) and Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak during a protest in front of the Egyptian embassy in Beirut, against Israel’s attacks on Gaza January 7, 2009.REUTERS/Ali Hashisho (LEBANON)


AFP report on Hezbollah:


Read the CNN report:


The New York Times had this to report:
The day after Israeli mortar shells killed as many as 40 Palestinians, among them women and children, outside a United Nations school in Gaza, diplomatic efforts to bring the fighting to a halt intensified. France and Egypt and Turkey were working on a plan that would work to halt rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, open up crossings into Gaza from both Israel and Egypt, and end weapons smuggling from Egypt. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, said the cease-fire plan had been agreed on, but Israel and Hamas both said that there were many details to be worked out. Israel was due to send officials to Cairo for further discussions.

Read the rest:

Ukraine Accuses Russia of Cutting Off Gas to Europe

January 7, 2009

Ukrainian officials said Wednesday that Russia had cut off all gas supplies through pipelines crossing Ukrainian territory, the latest move in a devastating pricing dispute between the two neighbors that has already left a number of countries without gas.

Valentyn Zemlyansky, spokesman for state gas company Naftogaz, said Russia’s gas giant Gazprom completely stopped sending gas to European consumers at 7:44 a.m. (0544 GMT). Eighty percent of Russian gas is shipped via Ukraine.

By MARIA DANILOVA, Associated Press Writer

“Words fail us,” Zemlyansky said of Gazprom’s move.

Russia confirmed the cutoff but said it was Ukraine’s fault because it had shut down the last pipeline carrying gas from Russia.

The Russia-Ukraine natural gas dispute has hit Europe with the force of a winter storm. It has affected at least a dozen nations. Tens of thousands of people were left without heat and governments scrambled to find alternative energy sources.

Before Wednesday, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Croatia, Serbia and Turkey had all reported a halt in gas shipments, while France, Germany, Austria, Poland and Hungary had reported substantial drops in supplies from Russia.

Read the rest:

Russia, Gazprom and the European Gas & Oil Mess

January 6, 2009

Russia sharply cut gas flows to Europe via Ukraine on Tuesday in a dramatic worsening of a pricing dispute with Kiev that threatened to disrupt supplies as far west as Italy and Germany.

Russian export monopoly Gazprom said it supplied some 65 million cubic meters (mcm) to Europe on Tuesday through ex-Soviet neighbor Ukraine, a fall of 78 percent from the 300 mcm it had been shipping since the dispute erupted on January 1.


The European Union, dependent on Russia for a quarter of its gas, urged Moscow and Kiev to find a solution this week and German Economy Minister Michael Glos said it was very important the two sides began negotiations.

The head of Ukraine’s state energy firm said he would fly to Moscow on Thursday. Gazprom said it was ready to talk any time but did not expect Ukraine to return to the talks table for now.

Read the rest:


By GEORGE JAHN and MARIA DANILOVA, Associated Press Writers

The RussiaUkraine natural gas dispute hit Europe with the force of a winter storm Tuesday, cutting or limiting supplies to nearly a dozen nations. Tens of thousands of people were left without heat and governments scrambled to find alternate energy sources.

Shocked by how fast the shortages were spreading, the European Union demanded a quick end to the dispute — a sharp turnaround from their earlier stance, when officials had downplayed the conflict between Moscow and Kiev as primarily a business matter.

But by Tuesday evening, gauges on delivery pipelines to six countries — including some depending totally on Russian gas — were pointing toward zero and an increasing number of other nations reported significant reductions.

The Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz said Russia’s gas giant Gazprom had sharply reduced its shipments to Europe through pipelines crossing Ukraine, triggering the cuts.

Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Croatia and Turkey all reported a halt in gas shipments, and even France, Germany, Austria and Poland reported substantial drops in supplies from Russia.

Read the rest:


What Is Gazprom?

Gazprom is the world’s biggest producer and exporter of natural gas — and Russia’s most powerful company.
It controls 20 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves and operates the world’s largest gas distribution network — approximately 157,000 kilometers of pipelines covering an area from Europe to the Far East, according to its Web site.

Gazprom exports energy to 32 countries and provides around 25 percent of the European Union’s gas supplies.

Last month it reported an 85 percent increase in net profits to $20.8 billion for the first six months of 2008. In 2007 it reported annual profits totaling nearly $61 billion. In 2008 the Financial Times placed it fourth on its list of the world’s top 500 corporations, as ranked by market capitalization.


Formed in 1989 to replace the Soviet Ministry of the Gas Industry, Gazprom is closely tied to the Russian government, which owns a controlling 50 percent stake in the company. Current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is a former Gazprom chairman.

In recent years, an increasingly confident Moscow has used Gazprom to assert its authority over Russia’s former sphere of influence by offering heavily subsidized gas to ex-Soviet countries such as Ukraine and Belarus.

But that policy has led to disputes as Gazprom has then sought to raise prices.

Read the rest:

God Invoked on Every Issue, from Chicago to Gaza

January 5, 2009

“We are hoping and praying that they will not be able to deny what the Lord has ordained,” (Senator?) Roland Burris said. “I am not hesitating. I am now the junior Senator from the state of Illinois. Some people may want to question that and that is their prerogative.”

Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey apparently said yesterday that “Allah would punish Israel” for its attacks on Gaza.

We here at Peace and Freedom were attacked by a pastor this last weekend who said God would punish us for supporting Barack Obama.

And Rev. Rick Warren has said he and his God condemn gays….and some of my gay friends said, “Well God Damn Rick Warren for sure…”

Maybe we should allow God to pick and choose His own people at His own time…

Related (On Burris):