- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Turkish model

Turkey could serve as a model for Iraq by showing that Islam and democracy can exist in a modern nation, visiting members of the Turkish parliament said yesterday.

“Iraq can learn from our mistakes and from our successes,” Egemen Bagis of the ruling Justice and Development Party told reporters at the Turkish Embassy.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the modern Turkish nation on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. His legacy is a secular state where 99 percent of the population is Muslim.

“We’re very supportive of the U.S. efforts in Iraq,” he said, pointing out that United States uses Turkish bases for the rotation of troops into and out of Iraq.

However, Mr. Bagis and his colleagues are worried about the unrest in Iraq, along part of its southern border.

“If there is a fire next door, it will eventually come to your house,” Mr. Bagis said.

Sukru Elekdag of the opposition Republican People’s Party said he is worried that the instability could erupt into a “full-scale civil war.”

“We don’t want to see this,” he said. “The U.S. should not cut and run. The U.S. has a responsibility to establish a new legitimacy [in Iraq].”

Mr. Elekdag, who served as Turkey’s ambassador to the United States from 1979 to 1989, said the United States should encourage Arab nations to help rebuild Iraq.

Mr. Bagis added that Iraq must avoid creating political parties that represent the ethnic and religious differences in the country.

He called for “geographic districts, not ethnic political divisions, to give them a sense they are Iraqis.”

On other issues, the visitors were optimistic about Turkey’s chances of joining the European Union, despite some European doubts about admitting an Islamic country.

“Are we going to be punished for our faith?” Mr. Bagis asked.

The delegation called on the European Union to set a date for Turkey to begin membership talks.

“We have been waiting for 40 years,” Mr. Bagis said.

Damla Gurel, another member of the Republican People’s Party, predicted that Turkey will transform the bloc.

“Europe knows that with Turkey, it will be a different European Union; and Turkey knows that with the European Union, it will be a different Turkey,” she said.

Already, Turkey has repealed laws that critics said restricted human rights. The reforms included the elimination of national security courts that handled terrorism cases.

Mrs. Gurel said Europe, with an aging population, needs Turkey because it has a “huge young population.”

Mr. Bagis said he hopes that the visit of the parliamentary delegation will lead to better relations with Capitol Hill.

“Turkish-American relations are good at the level of the executive branch, but they can be much better at the legislative level,” he said.

Envoys to Africa

President Bush has nominated four career diplomats to serve as ambassadors in Africa.

He picked James D. McGee, ambassador to Swaziland, to be the envoy to Madagascar. Mr. McGee has served in Nigeria, Pakistan, Barbados, Jamaica and the Ivory Coast.

Mr. Bush selected R. Barrie Walkley, ambassador to Guinea, to serve in Gabon. Mr. Walkley is a former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

June Carter Perry, director of the State Department’s Office of Social and Humanitarian Affairs, was nominated to serve as ambassador to Lesotho. She has served as deputy chief of mission in Madagascar and in the Central African Republic.

Joyce A. Barr, who works at the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia, was picked to be ambassador to Namibia. She has served in Turkmenistan and Malaysia.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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