09/07 TDN: Turkey can become even colder about U.S. if genocide recognized

Turkey can become even colder about U.S. if genocide recognized, expert says
Friday, September 7, 2007

ANKARA – Turkish Daily News

Relations between Turkey and the United States may be damaged further if the U.S. Congress recognizes the killings of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as genocide, warned a senior fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

“But this is not the only case,” Dr. Ian O. Lesser, a member of the team drafting the Transatlantic Trends 2007 survey, told the Turkish Daily News. “The Turkish public opinion is very sensitive about the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attacks. The United States should do something on that issue not only to win the hearts here but also as a strategic decision.”

The survey, unveiled yesterday, analyzes relations between the United States and European countries through a series of studies in 13 countries, including Turkey.

There is growing frustration among Turks over perceived U.S. ignorance on the PKK's presence in northern Iraq, placing the country near the top of a list of anti-American nations.

“I hear what everyone else is hearing,” Lesser said. “The (genocide) resolution is expected to pass this year. Even though it is symbolic, Turkish public opinion will harshly react to that. But both parties should try to keep their reaction as moderate as possible.”

Lesser was not optimistic that the new leadership in Turkey, including the new president and foreign minister, could change the current chill in ties between the two NATO allies. He said that a powerful majority government would be important to mend existing fences but warned the problematic areas in bilateral relations such as the PKK and the genocide resolution remain on the table.

“This is just like the general public opinion of Turkish people toward the United States,” Lesser said. “We were asking the Turks if they were optimistic that bilateral relations would get better after the presidential elections in the United States. And the Turks said, “No.” They are rather pessimistic. Why? It is all about Iraq. It is all about (U.S. President George) Bush. But it seems the attitude (of the Turks) will not change even if Bush leaves office because Iraq remains even if Bush leaves.”

On Turkey's recent agreements on energy cooperation with Iran despite repeated objections from Washington, Lesser dismissed claims that Turkey was blackmailing the United States to block the passage of the genocide resolution. “I think Turkey is making such agreements to meet its energy needs,” he said.

Good news, bad news

The survey reveals one good and one bad finding for Turkey.

Although a majority of Europeans do not want Turkey to enter the European Union, the survey also shows that a good number of them think that Turkey's membership is inevitable. The survey also shows that the public in only four EU countries believes that Turkey will not become a full member of the 27-nation bloc.

“This is a good thing that the Europeans see the inevitability of Turkey's membership,” Lesser said.

But the report also found that 26 percent of Turks desire membership.

One chart in the survey measures Turks' sentiments toward other nations in degrees Celsius, indicating the level of chill or warmth Turks feel for other peoples. Turks' positive feelings toward the United States are at about 11 degrees Celsius. Israel stands at the bottom of the list with five degrees Celsius, close to freezing. “These numbers were twice higher in last year's survey,” Lesser pointed out.

But Turks' warmth toward Palestinians, Iranians and Europeans also decreased, the survey found. “There is a growing tendency toward political isolation which is quite worrying,” Lesser said. "A one-year-long political debate at home as well as rising nationalism as a result of the terrorist attacks could be major reasons for this. (But) it is still hard to explain this situation when thinking of the growing integration of the Turkish economy with the world and profiting from globalization," he said.

Source: http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=82838