28 Haziran 2012 Perşembe

The EU and Turkey: Stronger together By 16 EU Foreign Ministers

BY 16 EU FOREIGN MINISTERS*     euobserver.com

BRUSSELS - At a time when the EU faces economic challenges and continuing instability in the Middle East, our relationship with Turkey matters more than ever.

Last week saw the 50th EU/Turkey Association Council, which demonstrated the need to work together to promote our shared prosperity, security and values.
In these tough economic times, increasing trade with Turkey offers opportunities for EU businesses. With a GDP growth rate of 8.5 percent last year, the second fastest in the G20 after China, Turkey is now the EU’s fifth largest export market.
Turkish entrepreneurs in Europe run businesses worth €40 billion, employing half a million people. In sectors like aviation, automobiles and electronics, our economies are increasingly integrated.
Turkey is well placed to become an energy hub, with both sides benefiting from projects to build the necessary infrastructure, including development of the Southern gas corridor.
The commercial relationship is strong, but could be stronger. While EU-Turkey trade has grown steadily, Turkey's trade with other regions has grown even faster.
This is partly a symptom of the wider shift of economic power to Asia, but also reflects problems with the EU-Turkey customs union and other trade restrictions that prevent our commercial relationship from achieving its full potential.
Removing these restrictions should form an important part of wider efforts to boost economic growth, building on the recent G20 Summit and on the European Council later this week.
We welcome the very recent agreement on a path towards visa liberalisation, linked to broader co-operation on migration. This has the potential to promote trade, combat illegal immigration and support wider people to people contacts.
Here, signature by Turkey of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement would be a crucial step on the way towards fulfilling Turkish citizens' aspirations to travel more freely in Europe.
As the dialogue between the EU and Turkey on mobility and security grows, we hope to see further concrete results. In this framework, we hope Turkey will extend visa free travel to EU member states.

25 Haziran 2012 Pazartesi

What Russia Gave Syria


A guide to Bashar Al-Assad's arsenal

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has had no better friend than Vladimir Putin's Russia. Just this week, three Russian ships reportedly headed to reinforce the Syrian port of Tartus. Meanwhile, the head of Russia's arms control export company ominously declared that the Syrian regime had been supplied with an advanced-missile defense system -- "whoever is planning an attack should think about this," he said.

Amid these developments, the news that Barack Obama and Putin agreed at the G-20 summit this week to support a political solution to the Syria conflict would seem almost, well, laughable -- if the situation on the ground weren't so dire.
As the death toll rises -- the United Nations says more than 10,000 Syrians have lost their lives -- the United States and Russia remain on opposite sides of the conflict. The Obama administration has declared that Assad must step down, while the Kremlin has staunchly supported the Syrian regime -- vetoing two U.N. Security Council resolutions addressing the conflict andwarning darkly about thousands of "foreign terrorists" fomenting violence in the country.
The New York Times reported on Thursday, June 21, that CIA agents are steering arms to the Syrian opposition, but this covert action pales in comparison to Russia -- which brazenly continues to supply the Syrian regime with advanced weapons that bolster the state and its violent crackdown.
The Syrian-Russian arms trade goes back more than a half-century, to at least the 1950s. At the time, the Soviet Union found a willing Cold War ally in its struggle against the United States and Israel -- when President Hafez al-Assad's regime was threatened by an Islamist-led insurgency in the 1980s, the Kremlin supplied the weaponry and trainers to put down the threat. From 1950 to 1990, the two countries' arms trade totaled at least $34 billion.

6 Haziran 2012 Çarşamba

China sees role for regional bloc in Afghanistan


BEIJING - (Reuters) - A regional bloc bringing together China, Russia and central Asian states wants to play a bigger role in Afghanistan, Chinese President Hu Jintao said in an interview published on Wednesday, as regional leaders gathered for their annual summit.

The future of neighbor Afghanistan, facing the withdrawal of most foreign combat forces by the end of 2014, is likely to be discussed at the two-day meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), whose member states fear growing instability spilling across the central Asian region as the pullout goes on.

"We will continue to manage regional affairs by ourselves, guarding against shocks from turbulence outside the region, and will play a bigger role in Afghanistan's peaceful reconstruction," Hu was quoted as saying in an interview with China's official People's Daily newspaper about the SCO summit.

"We'll strengthen communication, coordination and cooperation in dealing with major international and regional issues," said Hu.

The SCO, founded in 2001, includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Iran, India, Pakistan and others attend the summits, but not as full members.

Turkey's pipeline plans could be transformational for oil explorers in Iraqi Kurdistan


Iraq is home to some of the world’s largest oil finds. But the exploration companies based in Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, have been unable to capitalise on their position due to the political tension between Erbil and Baghdad.

However, the impasse may be broken after Turkey, Kurdistan’s largest neighbour, revealed last week it had plans to build a pipeline that could transform the fortunes of such companies.

Credit Suisse analyst Thomas Adolff said: “Regarding Iraqi Kurdish exposed oil companies, we would argue that unlike in recent years, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Iraqi Kurdistan gained autonomy from the federal Iraqi republic in 2005 after the Kurds helped coalition forces fight off Sadam’s Iraqi forces.

However, the validity of oil and gas contracts issued by the Kurdistan Regional Government has long been disputed by Baghdad. And the resolution of this issue has been one of the main uncertainties for investors.

5 Haziran 2012 Salı

Global Insider: Turkey, Pakistan Stand By Each Other

Global Insider

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met in Pakistan two weeks ago under the auspices of the bilateral High-Level Cooperation Council. In an email interview, Ishtiaq Ahmad, Quaid-i-Azam Fellow at St. Antony’s College and senior research associate at the Center for International Studies at Oxford University, discussed relations between Turkey and Pakistan.

WPR: How would you characterize modern Turkish-Pakistani relations, and how have they evolved over the past decade?

Ishtiaq Ahmad: The Turkish-Pakistani relationship is rooted in history and defined by the existence of deep ethno-religious affinity between the people of both countries. Despite being geographically separated and ideologically distinct, the two countries have always aspired to expand mutual cooperation in the political, economic, security and cultural spheres.

In the post-Cold War period, Turkish-Pakistani relations have made significant progress toward realizing tangible outcomes in these diversified areas of cooperation, especially in trade and investment. In the 1990s, three Turkish construction companies entered the Pakistani market with pledges of almost $1.5 billion.

The past decade has seen increasing cooperation between the two countries in the security sphere, especially due to the war in Afghanistan, where Turkey is an important member of the International Security Assistance Force. They have also stood by each other in times of natural disaster. 

Turkey takes lead in rebuilding Somalia

Alexander Christie-Miller    The Christian Science Monitor

Turkish workers have flooded Somalia - a country many have long considered too dangerous to work in -  to rebuild it and burnish Ankara's image as a regional player and powerful force in the Islamic world.

When delegates from 57 nations gathered in Istanbul last week to discuss bringing peace and stability to Somalia, one country’s efforts got special attention: Turkey.

Since last year Turkish relief workers and volunteers have poured into the Somali capital of Mogadishu – a city deemed too dangerous to work in by most governments – building hospitals, schools, and public infrastructure.

“Since the coming of Turkey there has been a paradigm shift,” says Somalia’s interim Prime Minister Abdulweli Mohamed Ali, in an interview with the Monitor.

He says Turkey has proven that reconstruction and aid efforts can work even as African Union troops battle to claw back parts of the country from the Al Shabab Islamist group, which is aligned with Al Qaeda.

“You can do it simultaneously,” says Prime Minister Ali. “You can create peace and stability by working on the security side, but also on the development side at the same time. That is what Turkey is successful at.”

Young Turks Return Home: The Brain Gain


Many well-educated Turks used to look abroad for their career opportunities. But now many think the best opportunities lie at home.

ISTANBUL—Zeynep Dagli never expected to come home so soon.

A graduate of elite universities in the U.K., she worked for four years as a high-flying investment banker in London until 2009, profiting at the height of a boom that made the U.K. capital the center of world finance. Three years later, the 28-year-old Ms. Dagli is making waves back home in Turkey, two years after founding start-up gift-box company Momento, which is forecast to post a turnover of up to 3 million lira ($1.7 million)—a 230% rise—this year.

"In the U.K. or the U.S. I couldn't have had this success and certainly not this quickly. I also couldn't have had this network—it just wouldn't have worked," Ms. Dagli says, explaining the year-and-a-half journey to build the company from scratch after returning from London. "The trend of young Turks returning home to seek opportunities here is going to grow as people now believe that they can make a sustainable fortune here away from the political and financial instability they were used to in the past. If you're a young Turk and you're not going to make it here, where are you going to make it?" she says.

Can Turkey inspire Egypt?


CAIRO - Last week, Egyptians went to the polls to participate in the first presidential election since Mubarak's downfall in February 2011. Going forward, the new president, who will be elected in the second phase of elections in June, should look to examples from other countries that have undergone successful democratic transitions.

When asked what leader outside their own country they most admired, a recent poll from the University of Maryland found that 63 percent of Egyptians answered Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, indicating that Egyptians may be interested in learning from Turkey. Turkey can serve as a relevant model because it has successfully dealt with three key challenges facing Egypt – the relationship of the army to a civilian government, economic growth and fostering positive international relations.

In terms of the first of these issues, Egypt is currently struggling with what role the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) should play in the new government, and how much power it should hold. While the situations of Egypt and Turkey are different, Turkey provides a useful model when it comes to checking the army’s power through the rule of law, rather than violence.

Turkey rides WEF bandwagon into the Middle East


The World Economic Forum for the Middle East is usually held in an Arab capital and the usual controversy is over how many Israelis show up. This year, there are so many different Arab worlds, one in political transition away from autocracy, the other still solidly autocratic, and the third profoundly troubled by the old conflicts.

That is part of the reason we are in Istanbul, where 1,000 business and political leaders are gathered for a WEF that is now “on the Middle East, north Africa and Eurasia.” The other might be that the WEF has come where Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, will no longer tread – he vowed never to return to Davos after storming off stage in 2009 in a heated debate on Gaza.

The three faces of the Arab world are all well represented here – the new is Tunisia, whose Islamist prime minister, Hammadi Jebali, this morning delivered a speech urging regional states and companies to put their money, and faith, in the nascent democracy. Opening remarks were also made by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister, who lamented the moribund peace process and the continuing Israeli occupation but also took the opportunity to tell fellow Arabs and Turks that Palestine is open for business. Investment, he said, consolidates the “steadfastedness” of the Palestinian people and promotes peace.

Turkey tries out soft power in Somalia


* Ankara wields soft power, hard cash in stricken state
* Famine in Somalia sparked huge Turkish relief effort
* Somali PM calls Turkey "Holy Grail" for his country
* Somalia part of Turkish Africa strategy

MOGADISHU, (Reuters) - In a sprawl of plastic refugee shelters and mortar-blasted buildings in Mogadishu, a mud-caked Turkish engineering team monitors the drilling of a new borehole while their armed guards chat lazily under a tree, guns across laps.

These government contractors are on the frontline of a huge Turkish development effort in one of the world's most dangerous cities - one which U.N. agencies and international charities prefer to deal with from the safety of neighbouring Kenya.

Across the Somali capital, a bombed-out shell after two decades of fighting, residents say Turkey has done more in eight months to shatter the perception that Mogadishu is a no-go zone than the international community has achieved in twenty years.

"Our government likes to help anyone in crisis so we came here without thinking anything," said the lead engineer, Mehmet, who asked Reuters to use a pseudonym because government employees are not authorised to talk to the media without permission.

The retreat of al Qaeda-linked rebels from the city in August ended the daily street battles and shelling between the militants and African troops, and offered a rare chance to ramp up aid as a famine gripped central and southern Somalia.

Some 500 Turkish relief workers and volunteers poured into Mogadishu's bullet-scarred wastelands, unleashing a wave of humanitarian aid as the militants struck back with a string of suicide bombings and roadside blasts.

"Of course it is dangerous but we don't think about those things. Inshallah, nothing has happened to us. If we are afraid, we can't operate," the engineer said

Turkish flags - white crescent moon and star on red background - flutter in the coastal breeze and billboards marking out Turkish reconstruction projects dot the capital, where potholed streets are lined by rubble-strewn ruins and mountains of garbage.