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October: Crisis with Damascus defused after Ocalan leaves Syria; the rise and fall of Korkmaz Yigit

HDN | 11/4/1998 12:00:00 AM |

ILNUR CEVIK October was a busy month for Turkey, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Turkish Republic. But the real spotlight was not on the celebrations but on the rising tensions between Turkey and Syria over the support of Damascus for Turkey's Kurdish separatists and the ongoing scandal involving businessmen, politicians and mob kingpins at home... The crisis with Syria was defused thanks to the efforts of Egypt when Damascus agreed to end its active support to the Kurdistan Workers' Party

ILNUR CEVIK

October was a busy month for Turkey, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Turkish Republic. But the real spotlight was not on the celebrations but on the rising tensions between Turkey and Syria over the support of Damascus for Turkey's Kurdish separatists and the ongoing scandal involving businessmen, politicians and mob kingpins at home...

The crisis with Syria was defused thanks to the efforts of Egypt when Damascus agreed to end its active support to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorist organization and let PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan leave the country...

Now Turkey is trying to trace the location of Ocalan and extradite him.

On the home front, the domestic scandal saw the rise of businessman Korkmaz Yigit to fame as a new media baron and then saw him fall with great speed, once his connections with mob leader Alaaddin Cakici were revealed. Yigit lost his newly acquired newspapers and also the state-owned Turk Bank, which he purchased in a record privatization deal...

Here is a chronology of events in October:

October 1- Turkish deputies move into a controversial new assembly hall at the start of the new legislative year amid a boycott by the conservative opposition.

October 1- President Suleyman Demirel warns Syria over its alleged support to separatist Kurdish terrorists fighting the Ankara government. "I announce to the entire world that we reserve our right to retaliate against Syria, which has not given up its hostile stance despite all our warnings and peaceful initiatives," Demirel says in a speech in Parliament at the opening ceremony of the new legislative year.

October 2- Is Bank General Director Unal Korukcu resigns after claims that he is connected to a major scandal involving mobs.

October 2- Mehmet Eymur, the former chief of the National Intelligence Organization's (MIT) counterterrorism division, is appointed to another state institution overseeing the country's sugar refineries.

October 2- President Suleyman Demirel pays a two-day official visit to Macedonia.

October 3- The top U.N. official in Cyprus, Dame Ann Hercus, announces that she will embark on a series of separate meetings with the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities to try to break the deadlock in direct reunification talks.

October 3- Turkey's ambassador to Rome, Inal Batu, arrives in Turkey for consultations about a diplomatic crisis with Italy over Kurdish dissidents.

October 4- Signaling it does not want to be involved in any potential military confrontation between Syria and Turkey, Israel is limiting routine exercises along its own border with Syria, news agencies report.

October 5- Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the now-defunct Welfare Party (RP), gives a 10-minute testimony upon order of the Ankara State Security Court (DGM) No. 1 on charges brought against him by the Diyarbakir DGM for "openly inciting people to hatred and animosity based on class, race, religious, sectarian and regional differences" during a 1994 speech in Bingol.

October 5- Yildirim Aktuna, Istanbul deputy from the Democratic Turkey Party (DTP), is appointed to the state ministry post that was vacated with the resignation of Refaiddin Sahin, a deputy from the same party.

October 5- The Stock Exchange (IMKB)-100 Index drops 9 percent to 1,892 points due to increased friction between Turkey and Syria, higher than expected inflation figures for September and failure of the G-7 countries to find a solution to the global economic meltdown, brokers say.

October 5- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak starts shuttle diplomacy between Damascus and Ankara to avoid a military confrontation.

October 6- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak pays a one-day working trip to Ankara to defuse the crisis between Turkey and Syria. Mubarak meets with President Demirel and Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz. Ankara decides to give diplomacy a last chance. President Mubarak flies to Damascus.

October 6- Iraq names new ambassador to Turkey, Farouk Hijazi, a senior intelligence officer.

October 6- Parliament votes to investigate allegations that Prime Minister Yilmaz illegally allocated state land to a private firm.

October 7- Motherland Party member and former Speaker of Parliament Mustafa Kalemli's parliamentary immunity is lifted by the Turkish legislature. Kalemli is accused of corruption in the renovation of the parliamentary hall.

October 7- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says he is not "mediating" between Turkey and Syria. Mubarak, with his latest comments, falls into line with Ankara, because Turkish officials also had insisted earlier that Mubarak's mission was not mediation but "a friendly visit."

October 7- A flagship of the Turkish press, Milliyet, has a new owner, Korkmaz Yigit. The paper announces that Yigit has purchased a majority in the Milliyet Gazetecilik from Aydin Dogan.

October 8- Greek Cyprus has informed Austria, the European Union term president, that it has postponed the deployment of the controversial Russian-made S-300 missiles until the end of the year, news agencies report.

October 8- Parliament unanimously approves Turkish participation in a multinational NATO force, currently being prepared for possible intervention to stop the continuing ethnic turmoil in the Yugoslavian province of Kosovo.

October 9- Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi meets with his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem in Ankara in a bid to seek a peaceful resolution to a mounting crisis between Turkey and Syria over Kurdish separatist terrorists.

October 10- Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Sharaa says that Damascus rejected Turkish threats against his country while seriously seeking a diplomatic solution "for all outstanding problems, topped by the security problem."

October 10- Prime Minister Yilmaz issues another warning of serious consequences for Syria if it fails to comprehend Turkey's resolve to combat Kurdish separatists, whom it says Damascus is sheltering. "Unless Syria collects its wits about it, it will be a holy duty for us to bring the world crashing down on its head," Yilmaz tells a rally in Kahramanmaras.

October 11- The Clinton administration's two-year effort to convince major oil companies that they should build a multi-billion dollar pipeline to export oil from the Caspian Sea appears to be failing, The New York Times reports.

October 11- Thousands of Islamic supporters protest the ban on headscarves at universities in rallies throughout the country.

October 12- A two-day summit conference of prime ministers and foreign ministers from seven Southeastern European countries opens in the Turkish city of Antalya. Traditional enemies Greece and Turkey unite to pressure Yugoslavia into making concessions on Kosovo, but the two neighbors fail to make any progress on disputes that could lead the two NATO allies to war during summit meeting of their prime ministers, Mesut Yilmaz and Costas Simitis.

October 12- President Demirel insists that Caspian Sea oil will be transported through Turkey, despite a New York Times report claiming that companies favored a cheaper and shorter route.

October 12- Egypt pursues its efforts to cool off a crisis between Syria and Turkey over Kurdish separatist terrorists, as Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa holds talks with Turkish officials. Moussa relays a message from Syrian President Hafez Assad to President Demirel. Later, Turkish officials say that Syria appears to have moved toward meeting its demands in a confrontation over Kurdish terrorists.

October 12- The Undersecretariat of the Defense Industries (SSM) signs a contract with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and Spain's Construcciones Aeronauticas SA (CASA) for the procurement of nine CN-235 aircraft needed by the Naval Forces and the Coast Guard.

October 13- Despite the support of opposition parties, the censure motion against Public Works Minister Yasar Topcu of the Motherland Party (ANAP) over corruption in the bidding for the Izmit Bay Passage project fails because most deputies from the People's Republican Party (CHP) stay away from the voting. The opposition parties muster 249 votes against the 205 of the minority government parties, but fail to obtain the 276 votes necessary to topple the minister.

October 13- With the resignation of Democratic Turkey Party (DTP) Hakkari Deputy Mustafa Zeydan, the number of DTP seats in Parliament falls from 20 to 19 and the party loses its right to have a group in Parliament. Zeydan joins the True Path Party (DYP).

October 14- The Treasury Undersecretariat declares that the sale of Turk Ticaret Bankasi (Turkbank) equity held by the state has been postponed until a parliamentary investigation into the sale proposed by Republican People's Party (CHP) Icel Deputy Fikri Saglar and his fellow deputies is concluded. The bank was sold to businessman Korkmaz Yigit, who is implicated in a scandal involving the mafia in Turkey.

October 14- Forty-two-year-old Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan is chosen as the 84th patriarch of the Armenian community in Turkey.

October 15- The United States remains committed to an oil pipeline route from the Caspian Sea to a terminal in southern Turkey despite reports that the project has fallen from favor, a senior State Department official discloses.

October 15- Estonian President Lennart Meri arrives in Ankara for a three-day official visit aimed at boosting political and economic cooperation between Turkey and the young Baltic republic.

October 15- Virtue Party (FP) Bingol Deputy Kazim Ataoglu quits his party. With his resignation, the number of FP seats in Parliament drops to 144.

October 16- Turkey rejects Syria's offer for talks on a wide range of problems, saying instead Syria must end its support to Kurdish separatists. Syria wanted to revive a negotiation mechanism set up in 1992 to deal with a broad range of issues, including how to share water from the Euphrates River.

October 17- State Minister Mehmet Batalli meets with Iraq's Oil Minister Lt. Gen. Amer Mohammed Rashid at the start of a series of talks aimed at boosting bilateral trade, despite tensions over Kurdish separatist terrorists and the sharing of river waters.

October 17- In an unprecedented written statement to the press. National Intelligence Organization (MIT) chief Sensal Atasagun says his organization has paid the price for the personal mistakes and wrongdoings of some officials who violated the principles of MIT and were involved in criminal gangs.

October 19- Iraq tells Turkey it must distance itself from hard-line U.S. policies toward Baghdad if it wants to improve economic relations.

October 19- Turkish and Syrian officials meet at a secret location in Turkey to address Ankara's claims that Syria is sheltering Kurdish separatist terrorists.

October 20- Ending a weeks-long standoff that some feared could have sparked a regional conflict, Damascus pledges to shut down Kurdish separatist camps in its territory and the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Under the agreement signed by Turkish and Syrian officials, Syria also agrees not to allow Kurdish terrorists to stage cross-border attacks on Turkey, Foreign Minister Ismail Cem announces.

October 20- Prime Minister Yilmaz, giving hints that Damascus is already meeting Ankara's demands to clamp down on rebel Kurdish separatists, says that separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan is no longer in Syria but in Russia.

October 20- U.S. Undersecretary of State Stuart E. Eizenstat arrives in Ankara to attend the fifth Joint Economic Commission meeting between Turkey and the United States.

October 20- Greece and the Greek Cypriots begin a six-day joint war exercise in which thousands of Greek Cypriot troops will be joined by Greek warplanes and ships.

October 21- The European Commission, trying to mollify Turkey after it was snubbed as an EU candidate, proposes to spend $180 million for industrial development projects in Turkey and enable Ankara to make full use of a 1996 Customs Union with the European Union.

October 21- Korkmaz Yigit, a Turkish media baron, will sell off his newspapers and TV stations because of a scandal linking him to a mob boss, news reports say.

October 21- Parliament ratifies the admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO.

October 22- Aydin Dogan buys back the mass circulation daily Milliyet from Korkmaz Yigit, who is implicated in an influence peddling scandal by a mob king.

October 22- The prime minister of Turkey orders an investigation into why the Central Bank ignored police warnings that a top mobster was involved in a bank privatization.

October 22- Four Turks, including a suspected underworld boss who had escaped from prison, Kursat Yilmaz, go on trial in eastern Bulgaria on charges of entering the country illegally and possessing an unlicensed gun.

October 22- Prime Minister Yilmaz welcomes a decision by the European Union commission to provide financial aid to Turkey with the aim of improving ties between Ankara and the Union.

October 22- Ankara says it has asked Moscow to extradite wanted PKK leader Ocalan, who it says has been in Russia for more than one week.

October 22- Syria's official news agency brands the PKK as illegal, which suggests that Syria is willing to placate Turkey in a dispute that had threatened to turn into war. Syria's new deal with Turkey on Kurdish separatists reinstates security cooperation between the two countries that Turkey cancelled three years ago, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa says.

October 23- Turkish underworld boss, Kursat Yilmaz, who escaped from prison in Turkey, is convicted by Bulgarian authorities on charges of entering the country illegally and possessing an unlicensed gun, the state news agency BTA reported.

October 23- Two of the three prisoners who set themselves on fire in Diyarbakir and Midyat prisons die.

October 23- Prime Minister Yilmaz holds talks with his key leftist backer Deniz Baykal. The premier tells reporters after the meeting that they did not agree on amendments to an existing protocol for early elections in April next year.

October 24- Political prisoners, holding prison officials hostage in five prisons throughout Turkey in a bid to improve jail conditions, end their nationwide protest, Justice Minister Hasan Denizkurdu says.

October 25- Hundreds of thousands of people kick off a week-long celebration to mark the 75th anniversary of the Republic, marching through streets across the country and shouting slogans in favor of secular Turkey.

October 26- The Islamist mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, resigns from the Virtue Party (FP). This follows the imposition of a 10-month jail term for charges of sedition in April.

October 27- Turkey has officially asked Russia to extradite Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) wanted on charges of heading the terrorist organization, the Foreign Ministry says.

October 28- The Turkish parliament approves a petition by Eyup Asik, a deputy from the ruling Motherland Party (ANAP), to be allowed to resign from his parliamentary seat. Asik's resignation is accepted by 252 votes against 65 in the 550-seat house, leaving Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz's ANAP with 137 mandates.

October 28- An appeals court upholds a one-year sentence for leading human rights activist Akin Birdal, who was convicted in July of inciting racial hatred through Kurdish propaganda.

October 28- Motherland Party (ANAP) Canakkale Deputy Hikmet Aydin resigns from his party causing the number of ANAP seats in Parliament to drop to 136 and increasing the number of independent deputies to 15.

October 29- The 75th anniversary of the Republic is celebrated by hundreds of thousands of people all over Turkey, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) and in Turkish embassies abroad.

October 29- With U.S. backing, Turkey and four former Soviet republics sign a declaration in support of an oil pipeline crossing through Turkey as the main export route from the Caspian's rich oil fields. The declaration is a clear message to oil companies, which are expected to announce their preferred route in two weeks and reportedly favor cheaper alternatives to the $2.5 billion Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project.

October 29- A lone, unidentified hijacker commandeers a Turkish Airlines plane.

October 30- After a seven-hour standoff, Turkey's special task force teams successfully storm a Turkish Airlines plane hijacked by a lone gunman identified as Erdal Aksu and rescue all passengers and crew unhurt. The hijacker is killed.

October 30- Gerhard Schroeder, Germany's new chancellor, says he will work for closer ties between Turkey and the European Union.

October 30- Virtue Party Mayor Zeki Basaran of Agri is temporarily dismissed for insulting Ataturk in a speech he allegedly made in 1994.

 

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