Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Senior figures from across Austria’s political spectrum have condemned the head of the far-right Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, over his party’s European election campaign directed against Israel and Turkey.
In an advertisement in the newspaper Kronen Zeitung, Freedom opposes the accession of Turkey and Israel to the European Union. Although Turkey is in EU accession talks, Israel is not.
Heinz-Christian Strache prepares for a TV discussion in Vienna, Sept. 17, 2008. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader (AUSTRIA)
“What is the most distasteful and despicable is the style,” says Ernst Strasser, the conservatives’ candidate in next month’s elections for the European Parliament, referring to Strache’s campaign. “This style is abusive. He vilifies other religions and ethnicities.”
This is part of a series of post cards from Reuters reporters from across Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Political risk is set to fall in Turkey if the government plays its cards right
Turkey’s ruling party posted its worst election result since 2002 in March local polls as voters penalised the AK Party and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for failing to address a weakening economy, corruption allegations and a perception that the government was losing touch with voters. In a rare move, Erdogan, a tough politician who keeps tight control of levers of power in Turkey, admitted his party had underestimated the global crisis and promised to focus on the economy, including speeding up finalising a deal with the IMF. He also promised to reach out to the opposition over EU reforms. If he sticks to his promises, the economy will begin to improve, but probably not fully until 2010, and political risk will fall.
Dressed in black robes and headcaps, the monks at the ancient Syriac Christian Orthodox monastery of Mor Gabriel in southeast Turkey sat gravely for dinner one recent cold night. Led by their bishop, they said their prayers in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus, and ate their meal of meat and rice in sepulchral silence, the clinking of forks and spoons resonating in the bare white room.
On the face of it, little has changed in a life of meditation and prayer at the Mor Gabriel Monastery since it was built in AD 397; but the monks feel the cares of a changing Turkey, beyond their walls, weighing upon them. A land dispute between neighbouring villages and Mor Gabriel is threatening the future of one of the world's oldest monasteries, and a Reuters multimedia team had travelled to the remote monastery to cover the row.
President-elect Barack Obama has been getting a lot of advice these days on how to deal with Muslims and Islam. He invited it by saying during his campaign that he either wanted to convene a conference with leaders of Muslim countries or deliver a major speech in a Muslim country "to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular”. But where? when? why? how? Early this month, I chimed in with a pitch for a speech in Turkey or Indonesia. Some quite interesting comments have come in since then. (Photo: Obama image in Jakarta, 25 Oct 2008/Dadang Tri)
Two French academics, Islam expert Olivier Roy and political scientist Justin Vaisse argued in a New York Times op-ed piece on Sunday that Obama's premise of trying to reconcile the West and Islam is flawed:
Now here's an interesting question. The New York Times reports that President-elect Barack Obama wants to make "a major foreign policy speech from an Islamic capital during his first 100 days in office." But from which one? As NYT staffer Helene Cooper explains, it's a question that's fraught with diplomatic, religious and personal complications. After a day of calling around Washington, she found a consensus:
It’s got to be Cairo. Egypt is perfect. It’s certainly Muslim enough, populous enough and relevant enough. It’s an American ally, but there are enough tensions in the relationship that the choice will feel bold. The country has plenty of democracy problems, so Mr. Obama can speak directly to the need for a better democratic model there. It has got the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization that has been embraced by a wide spectrum of the Islamic world, including the disenfranchised and the disaffected.
The following piece is written by Turkey correspondent Ibon Villelabeitia:
A new and intimate documentary on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the
venerated soldier-statesman who founded modern Turkey after
World War One, has sparked controversy in this European Union
candidate country at a time of national self-absorption.
“Mustafa”, which opened on Oct. 29 on the 85th anniversary
of the foundation of the republic, has spawned a lively debate
in newspapers and television shows on the merits of the film.
Following the national soccer team to a foreign country is usually a safe enough bet for any national leader. Photographs of the president or premier smiling and waving, the local colour, the national flags all play well at home; a few platitudes to charm the local press and a handshake. Simple, harmless political fun. When Turkish President Abdullah Gul visits Yerevan this weekend for Turkey’s World Cup qualifier against Armenia, however, there will be nothing simple about it. For the two countries, divided over a wartime slaughter that occurred early in the last century, it will be a historic moment, fraught with perils. For many Armenians, Gul’s presence will be an act of sheer effrontery by a state they accuse of an act of genocide against the Armenian people; an act of savagery by the old, collapsing Ottoman Empire for which they demand an apology and redress. For many nationalist Turks, his unprecedented venture, the first visit to Armenia by a Turkish leader, borders on betrayal of their country which they say committed no genocide. Hundreds of thousands, Turks and Armenians alike, they argue, died in the fierce fighting that consumed the region. Opposition leader Deniz Baykal gave a taste of that mood, remarking sarcastically that Gul should lay a wreath at the Yerevan genocide monument. Recklesness or statesmanship? Whichever it is, if it is either, it is arguably an act of political courage — as was the invitation issued by Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan. Gul might have left well alone as generations of Turkish leaders have done before him. Few in Turkey or Armenia, would have raised an eyebrow. There may well be anti-Turkish demonstrations in Yerevan and rumblings at home. Gul, a naturally mild-mannered man, must watch his words and his body language. Maybe soccer diplomacy could break the ice between Armenia and Turkey in the same way ping-pong diplomacy launched relations between the United States and Communist China. Gul’s visit to Armenia is the latest in a string of Turkish foreign policy interventions around his country’s troubled border areas, involving Syria, Iran, Israel, Iraq and more recently Georgia. Gul and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan might be seen as pandering to a foreign policy fantasy nurtured by Washington and Brussels of a Turkey building bridges between the West and the Arab world, helping secure the energy routes of the Caucasus and healing the wound of Cyprus; but Ankara is pursuing its own vested interests. While the Turkish economy may prosper in Istanbul or central Anatolia, the country’s east remains steeped in poverty. Why? Look around. Eastern Turkey is caught, effectively, in a dead end, surrounded by closed or virtually closed borders and weak neighbouring economies. Armenia is one such neighbour, but an important one. A landlocked country still emerging from the ruins of the Soviet Union, Armenia also suffers from a closed border with its huge western neighbour. The argument about whether or not the events of the last century were an act of systematic killing, a genocide, will continue with a passion. The idea that governments write history or interpret it is not one that sits easily with me. I’ve lived in countries where the history books are written by the government or the Party. The Turks have compromised themselves over decades on this count by prosecuting historians or journalists who dare to entertain the question of whether there was genocide; but things in Turkey are changing. The country is opening, if not quickly enough for some. Armenians might argue that the killing in what is today eastern Turkey is not history but very much a modern event for families driven into exile and living with the consequences. Some of those exile families, from Paris to Los Angeles, are among the most vocal proponents of diplomatic action against Turkey. Soccer matches can be emotional occasions. Turkish and Armenian colours will vie for attention. Hopefully, the emotion this time will be confined largely to the action on the pitch, but politics will be foremost in many people’s minds, within and beyond the borders of Turkey and Armenia. A risky and courageous political act by Gul or a move long overdue for both Turkey and Armenia? Much depends on what comes after the final whistle. Both sides are showing good will. The Armenians, for instance, are removing from the emblems on their kit the image of Mount Ararat, a mountain now in Turkey but closely linked to Armenian culture and history. As Turkish national coach Fatih Terim said on Tuesday, the team is going to Yervan ‘to play a game and not to fight a war’.
The leaders of Cyprus’s Greek and Turkish communities sipped coffee and called each other “comrade” as they launched a new round of talks on reuniting the island, whose 34-year division has exasperated the most committed of mediators.
This time, foreign diplomats and analysts say, a solution is in sight, thanks largely to the two moderate, leftist men heading the negotiations – Greek Cypriot Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot Mehmet Ali Talat.
Although it has been years since any violence has erupted on the island, the simmering feud has far-reaching effects onTurkey’s EU aspirations, its relations with fellow NATO member Greece and politics in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Caucasus tinderbox is alight again. How far will the flames spread this time and what can the outside world – the United States, the European Union, NATO – do to extinguish them?
The strategic significance of this mountainous region stretches back through history.
There can be few countries where the art of the coup is so finely honed as in Turkey, adapting as it does constantly to the spirit of the age, spawning over the decades its own enigmatic lexicon – the “Coup By Memorandum”, the “Post-Modern Coup”, the “Judicial Coup”, the ill-starred “e-Coup”.
Now newspapers (largely pro-government newspapers it should be said), gorge on tales of coup plots dubbed ‘Glove’, ‘Blonde Girl’ , ‘Moonlight’ and devote pages to a shadowy militant group code-named “Ergenekon”. Two retired military commanders, supposed members of the group, have been arrested at their homes on military compounds; a bold step by civilian authorities against an army that jealously guards its privileged status. Critics of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan call the arrests, also netting businessmen and journalists, a ‘revenge action’ for moves by the conservative judiciary to shut his AK party on charges of Islamist subversion. Ertugrul Ozkok, editor of Hurriyet, a newspaper critical of the government , suggested authorities were riding roughshod over judicial processes. If things are as they seem, he said, “none of us can feel comfortable any more. Any one of us can be taken from our homes and held in custody.”