Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Former Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller Tackles Critics

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Former Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller Tackles Critics

Article excerpt

Former Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Çiller Tackles Critics

Despite its current economic and political problems, Turkey will eventually join the ranks of the world's superpowers, Tansu Çiller, former Turkish prime minister, said at an April 28 program sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Boston at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. "I believe we are going to be a superpower in the next century," Çiller said, adding that a cornerstone of Turkish policy is the need for military preparedness.

Çiller cited disputes among her country's neighbors including the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, continued strife in Georgia, and the potential for trouble along Turkey's southern and eastern borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran. "These are names that make American audiences cringe," Çiller stated. "We live in a rough neighborhood and the only way to survive is to be strong and vigilant."

Noting that many people in Central Asia speak Turkish dialects and share a cultural heritage with Turkey, Çiller said increased trade and cooperation with the emerging nations of the former Soviet Union would be natural. While Turkey has longstanding ties to Asia, it is also a European democracy, Çiller said, adding that Istanbul is the only major city in the world located on two continents. "This deep sense of history," with traditions in both East and West, will allow Turkey to play a pivotal role, she predicted.

Turkey's strong support of NATO has been amply demonstrated, she said. "Turkey provides NATO with the second largest fighting force after the U.S.," and Turkish troops fought in Korea and in the Balkans, she noted. "We have done this throughout our history. We have fought for freedom."

Çiller discussed the domestic events which led to her forming a coalition government with the Islamic Welfare Party, which has since been banned by Turkey's army. Çiller said she received worldwide criticism for entering the coalition.

Çiller, who holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Connecticut, explained that her economic program, designed to support free markets and privatize government-owned industries, had caused an increase in unemployment and other economic hardships. It was those economic issues, not a rise in religious fundamentalism, which brought the Welfare Party to power in the first place, she said.

"They came to power on an economic agenda, not a religious agenda," Çiller maintained, noting that Welfare was not able to deliver on the economic promises it had made during the election. "This promised dream could not be implemented," Çiller said.

Although the coalition has since been dissolved and the Welfare Party banned, Çiller said that "Turkey is still in a political and economic stalemate."


"The only cure for democracy's weakness is more democracy, not less," she maintained. "We are on the brink of a major political challenge. The current government is exhausted. Electoral reform is in limbo and efforts to move power away from Ankara are reversed," she said.

In a possible reference to media allegations of financial impropriety on the part of herself and her husband, Çiller warned that "We must guard against a new kind of media abuse. The media moguls have unlimited power to manipulate the economy for personal gain. …

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