Turkish Opposition Parties Unhappy With Obama Remarks

ANKARA–Turkey’s opposition party leaders are unhappy with US President Barack Obama over remarks he made in separate talks with them during his visit to Turkey on Monday, reported the Turkish newspaper, Today’s Zaman.

Obama held brief talks with leaders from Turkey’s three opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP). He met with CHP chairman, Deniz Baykal, MHP Chairman Devlet Bahceli, and DTP Chairman Ahmet Turk

The meetings with Obama, according to them, fell short of expectations, Today’s Zaman reported.

Speaking to DPT leader Turk, Obama’s advised the pro-Kurdish party to refrain from violence or armed struggle, as it would not solve the Kurdish problem. Turk, for his part, briefed Obama on the unsolved murders against Kurds in the southeastern parts of Turkey.

According to Today’s Zaman, Turk also gave Obama documents outlining his party’s position on the Kurdish issue in Turkey. Obama, for his part, stressed that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is a terrorist organization and that violence could not be a means to solve problems.

Akin Birdal, a DTP deputy, said his party agreed that problems would not be solved with violence. “We expressed our fear that the inability to solve the Kurdish problem would bring with it more serious problems. We have once more made the point that we are for solutions that use democratic and civilian means,” he said.

MHP Chairman Bahceli, for his part, is concerned that Obama’s visit to Turkey may further deepen disappointment in Azerbaijan, which was already uneasy about the invitation of Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian to the second Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) in Istanbul.

MHP Ankara deputy Deniz Bolukbasi described Obama’s speech in the Turkish parliament a “disappointment,” saying, “Obama’s views of the Armenian genocide have not changed and his desire for the [Greek] Halki Seminary to be reopened and his strong relations with the Kurdish administration in Iraq are worrisome.”

The staunchly secular CHP, the country’s main opposition party, is uneasy about Obama’s positive sentiments for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan but is pleased to have seized the opportunity to engage in talks with the US president.

CHP leader Baykal noted his party’s sensitivity to such issues as secularism, freedom of the press and freedom of the judiciary. Obama, in response, asked Baykal why he doesn’t travel to the US. “My friends often fly to the US, but the last time I traveled to the US was in 1987,” Baykal said.

CHP Deputy Chairman Onur Oymen said Obama’s speech in Parliament was not beyond expectations. “It’s important that he dwelled on democracy, secularism and close cooperation between Turkey and the US,” Oymen said. “His remarks, however, on the cooperation between the two countries in Afghanistan brings up the problem that the US has high hopes for Turkey.”

He noted, however, that the CHP is pleased to see that Obama is likely to pursue a different policy from that of the Bush administration.

For Ahmet Tan, a deputy from the Democratic Left Party (DSP), Obama’s visit brought renewal to the strained US-Turkish relations, signaling that his administration is looking to cooperate with Turkey in implementing its policies in the Middle East.

n a positive light. “Obama imposed new responsibilities on the government and won back the hearts of opposition parties, In an approach different from the Bush administration, Obama is trying to implement its policies in the Middle East with the support of Turkey,” he added.

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