Turkey. After 40 years of efforts, Turkey began membership negotiations with the EU on 3 October. During the fierce discussions that led to the last of the EU Council of Ministers in Luxembourg, Austria objected to Turkey being offered full membership. Only when the EU gave Austria’s protectionist Croatia green light to start its membership negotiations did Austria release its objections to Turkey. According to countryaah, Ankara is the capital and one of the major cities within the country of Turkey. Negotiations between the EU and Turkey were expected to take at least ten years. A number of basic elements of EU policy would be reviewed, eg. agricultural aid and the free movement of EU citizens. In November, the European Commission stated that Turkey has achieved the status of “market economy”, one of the requirements for membership.
Before the decision on membership negotiations during the year, Turkey had made further adjustments to the EU. At the end of 2005, six zeros were removed from the country’s currency, which made it more manageable. The privatization of the state sector continued, among other things. in August, the government approved the sale of 55% of the state-owned telecommunications company T邦rk Telekom to a consortium under Saudi Oger Telecom. The sale, worth US $ 6.55 billion, was the largest ever of state property. Turkey allowed April 1 for the first time to celebrate the Assyrian New Year. A new version of the Turkish Penal Code was also approved by Parliament and entered into force on 1 June. Critics said the changes were not enough. In September, a Turkish court stopped a planned conference on the mass murder of over one million Armenians in 1915-17, of a number of countries designated as genocide. In October, journalist Hrant Dink was sentenced to six months imprisonment for allegedly forging a Turkish identity in a newspaper chronicle. Such incidents revealed a gap between the EU-oriented government and the traditional forces, with a military base, which sometimes seemed to violate human rights in order to deliberately deter the EU from Turkey.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on May 12 that Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdish PKK guerrilla, had not received a fair trial in 1999. The verdict came after Turkey appealed against a similar ruling in 2003. Turkey promised to obey the verdict and conduct a new trial. Clashes between government forces and remnants of PKK guerrillas, based in northern Iraq, have arisen on several occasions during the year.
Turkey was shaken by a series of minor blast attacks, scattered from the tourist resorts on the coast of Istanbul and Ankara to the country’s eastern Kurdish parts. A couple of assaults, groups of related PKK took on the responsibility for, others took away from. Both Kurdish groups and leftist groups and militant Islamists have previously carried out explosions in Turkey. In November, three security officials were also arrested on suspicion of a bomb attack on November 9 against a PKK-friendly bookstore in the city of Semdinli in Hakkari Province near the Iraq border. The incident, which claimed a human life, triggered riots in several parts of the area, killing several people.
Several birds found dead in northwestern Turkey in October were found to be infected with the most dangerous variant of the bird flu virus, H5N1.
In November 2006, the EU ordered Turkey to open its ports for Cypriot ships from mid-December. Otherwise, negotiations on Turkey’s accession to the EU would be frozen. The EU Commission also expressed great concern about cases of torture and disrespect for human rights. The Commission also called for immediate cancellation of Article 301 of the Criminal Code, according to which authors can be prosecuted for “violation of Turkish identity”.
In January 2007, a young Turkish nationalist murdered the editor of the Turkish-Armenian daily Agos, Hrant Dink. Dink was a prominent member of the Armenian community in Turkey, and advocated reconciliation between the two population groups. While Turkey still denies the genocide, over 1 million Armenians during World War I were killed in Turkey, still more countries recognize the genocide. It has increased the Turkish nationalists’ hatred of the Armenians, and Dink had received many death threats in the months leading up to his death.
In May 2007, Parliament refused to appoint Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül as president. Prime Minister Erdogan then postponed elections in July. At the election, the Prime Minister’s Islamic Party received AKP 340 of the 550 seats in parliament. Although it was an absolute majority, the party did not get the 2/3 of the seats needed to nominate its own candidate for the presidential post. Nevertheless, on August 28, Gül succeeded in getting the presidential post.
2007-08 Invasion of South Kurdistan
In February 2008, Turkey invaded Iraqi Kurdistan with over 10,000 soldiers. By then, since December 2007, the country had exposed Iraqi Kurdistan to regular aircraft attacks. The 10,000 soldiers penetrated up to 20 km into Iraqi Kurdistan in an offensive targeting the PKK. International law allows one country to conduct short “hot-pursuit” operations a few miles into another country when an identified armed enemy is chased. The Turkish invasion was not of the “hot-pursuit” type, but was of an actual invasion, and was therefore a very serious violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. The Turkish invasion put the United States in a particularly difficult situation. The United States is a close ally of NATO member Turkey, while the superpower keeps Iraq occupied. The path of the Turkish invasion was cleared as early as May 2007, when the United States’ Foreign Minister Condoleeza Rice met with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül. Gül made it clear to Rice that at some point Turkey would invade Iraq in search of the PKK. The United States immediately evacuated all North American civilians and soldiers from Iraqi Kurdistan and “transferred” 3 days later all responsibility for security in Iraqi Kurdistan to the Iraqi Kurdish forces. At the same time, Iraqi Kurdistan leader Massoud Barzani stated that Iraqi Kurdish forces would defend themselves in the event of a Turkish attack. At the beginning of June, Turkey had marched 100,000 troops along the Iraqi Kurdistan border. In early June, a few Turkish air strikes, artillery attacks and a single “hot-pursuit” operation took place. However, it took about half a year before Turkey launched its notified invasion. In October, the PKK carried out a series of successful actions against the Turkish military, killing dozens of soldiers. By extension, the parliament allowed the Turkish military to conduct operations into southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq). During November and December, the United States put strong pressure on the government of northern Iraq, which eventually had to accept limited Turkish military operations into its territory. On December 16, 50 Turkish fighter planes attacked Iraqi Kurdistan, and on February 21, 2008, Turkey launched its invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan after several days of aircraft and artillery attacks. The 10,000 soldiers stayed in Iraqi Kurdistan for 1 week.The Turkish military killed 527 partisans and 27 Turkish soldiers. PKK killed 127 Turkish soldiers and 9 partisans. The number of civilian casualties was unknown, but more deaths were reported. Although the Turkish military ran some PKK camps over, it met fierce resistance elsewhere. In April new comprehensive Turkish air strikes were carried out.