Sunday, April 23, 2006

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Threats of more carnage by restive Kurds and a growing feud over the role of Islam will greet Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her one-day visit to Turkey on Wednesday.

Veteran diplomats said that regardless of the agenda established in Washington, Miss Rice will be unable to avoid discussions on longtime Greek-Turkish problems, which have not changed significantly in years.

From Greece — where Miss Rice will stop Thursday — come warnings about the slow pace of reforms required before Turkey can join the European Union and of demonstrations against U.S. policies in the area.

Western diplomats stressed the delicate nature of Miss Rice’s mission, pointing to rising tension between Greece and Turkey, Turkey’s growing ethnic and religious crises, and its difficulties with the EU accession process.

“There is a general view in the EU that Turkey is experiencing a ‘reforms fatigue,’” said Giorgos Koumoutsakos, a spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry.

Greek officials said they were not concerned about threats of anti-U.S. demonstrations during Miss Rice’s stay in Athens. “Greek people are hospitable,” said Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis. “We have traditionally good relations with the United States. I am not afraid of anything.”

Foremost among Greek fears is a concern that a worldwide Islamic revival is gaining ground in Turkey. Greece also worries about Turkey’s refusal to compromise in efforts to establish a viable bicommunal state on Cyprus.

“It must be seriously examined whether Turkey’s EU course is feeding a dangerous instability in that country,” wrote the Athens conservative daily Kathimerini.

The newspaper referred to EU criticism of a proposed Turkish anti-terrorism law, described by European specialists and some Turkish media as encompassing too many crimes and prone to abuse.

The planned law largely was prompted by mounting Kurdish unrest and threats by radicals to create “a climate of fear and chaos” in cities and resort areas popular with foreign tourists.

Turkish political tensions have been aggravated by a debate pitting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan against President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, in which the secular president said the governing party was leading Turkey toward Islamic fundamentalism.

Miss Rice is scheduled to see both Turkish leaders in what Turkish officials describe as a review of relations between the two countries, with particular stress on problems with Iran and Iraq.

Turkey is particularly anxious to obtain a U.S. commitment to prevent arms and guerrillas from crossing into the country from northern Iraq.

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