Country Report Turkey January 2011

The political scene: US engages in damage limitation over Wikileaks

At the end of November, the whistle-blowing Internet site Wikileaks published confidential cables sent by US diplomatic personnel in Turkey to the State Department. Thus far, approximately 7,000 memos relating to Turkey have appeared on the website, many revealing aspects of how the US administration has viewed the AKP government in Turkey since it came to power in 2002. A former US ambassador is supposed to have described the attempt to close down the AKP in 2007 as nothing short of a "judicial coup d'état". Another cable alleges that the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has secret bank accounts in Switzerland, an accusation which he has strenuously denied. Other documents, unsurprisingly, show US diplomats' concern about Turkey's friendly ties with Iran and its unwillingness to support sanctions against the country.

The US administration appeared keen to limit the damage that the leaks might have been done to Turkish-US relations. As soon as they appeared, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, apologised to her counterpart, the Turkish minister of foreign affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu, on behalf of her administration. This was followed by a telephone call by the US president, Barack Obama, to Mr Erdogan on December 12th. Mr Erdogan publicly denounced the leaks as "dirty American games" on December 2nd and has threatened to sue the US officials responsible for the cables. However, this was probably done to appease domestic public opinion, which is starkly anti-US. The Economist Intelligence Unit does not expect the leaks to alter dramatically Turkey's generally positive ties with the US administration. The embarrassment caused to Mr Obama's administration may give Mr Erdogan's government more leverage to prevent in the coming weeks a full vote in Congress on a resolution calling for recognition of the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915-17 as genocide.

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