Turkey ponders 'day after'

Turkish Daily News
Nov 01, 2004


ANKARA - Turkey's relations with the United States are not expected to
go through a drastic change after the Nov. 2 presidential election
since both candidates hold similar positions on most foreign policy
issues, although Washington's stance on Iraq and an alleged Armenian
genocide might be different than the one currently held in the event
the Democratic candidate wins.

President George W. Bush, who is running for a second term, has
avoided using the word "genocide" in traditional April 24 messages,
the anniversary of the alleged genocide. Democratic candidate John
Kerry, on the other hand, has pledged in speeches throughout his
election campaign to recognize the allegations.

Turkey has so far demonstrated little concern that Kerry would endorse
the allegations if elected, given the fact that U.S. presidents, even
those who had pledged to recognize the allegations of a genocide
before coming to power, have so far valued good relations with Turkey
above domestic political gains.

But some observers say with Kerry as president, the United States
might revise its policy concerning the alleged genocide, though a
number of others argue that there is little reason why the traditional
U.S. policy on the issue should change.

In the past, a bill calling for recognition of the alleged genocide
was shelved at the last minute in the U.S. House of Representatives
after then President Bill Clinton intervened.

Armenians claim that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed at the
hands of the late Ottoman Empire in the last century as part of a
genocide campaign. Turkey categorically denies the genocide
allegations, saying the killings came when the Ottoman Empire was
trying to quell civil unrest during the World War I years.

Iraq uncertainty

One of the most sensitive issues involving Turkey-U.S. ties is the
future of Iraq. Turkey is concerned about the presence of the outlawed
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the mountains of northern Iraq and
the prospects of stronger political influence exercised by the Kurds
in the north. Turkish concerns have grown, particularly in recent
months, over Kurdish attempts to control the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Ankara is also pressing the United States to take action to eliminate
the PKK. Washington has pledged that there will be no place for
terrorists in Iraq but, given the huge task of dealing with an
insurgency in other parts of the country, has avoided using military
means.

The chief elements of Bush's Iraq policy are the protection of Iraq's
territorial integrity, the establishment of a federal regime in Iraq
and broad autonomy for Iraqi Kurds in the north.

Parliamentary elections in Iraq are slated for January. The Bush
administration has presented no timetable for withdrawal from Iraq but
has said instead the pullout would take place after the mission there
was completed.

Kerry, if elected, is expected to push for more international
participation to put things right in Iraq. Observer say Iraqi Kurds
expect Kerry to be more flexible as compared to Bush on the issue of
an autonomy for Kurds. Kerry's position concerning the PKK presence in
Iraq is not yet certain.

EU support set to continue

Washington's traditional support for Turkey's bid to join the EU is
expected to remain same with both candidates. Bush has been a strong
supporter of Turkish membership throughout his term as president and
is expected to maintain his support if re-elected. According to
political observers, Kerry is no different from Bush in that sense.

Both Bush and Kerry are also expected to support Turkey's relations
with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

As for Cyprus, the Bush administration is likely to come up with a new
undertaking for settlement in the island if it returns to office after
the election. Kerry, however, has made no clear statement on his
position on the Cyprus issue.

The U.S. administration has pledged to help end the international
isolation of the Turkish Cypriots but has not yet taken any concrete
steps in that direction.