195342 3/5/2009 8:46 09ANKARA337 Embassy Ankara CONFIDENTIAL 09STATE19708 VZCZCXYZ0010 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHAK #0337 0640846 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 050846Z MAR 09 FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8968 INFO RUEHBM/AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST PRIORITY 1119 RUEHKV/AMEMBASSY KYIV PRIORITY 0045 RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 5656 RUEHSF/AMEMBASSY SOFIA PRIORITY 1270 RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI PRIORITY 3199 RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL PRIORITY 5471 RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 7017 RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 0795 RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU PRIORITY RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L ANKARA 000337
E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/3/2019 TAGS: PREL, PARM, MARR, NATO, TU SUBJECT: TURKEY STILL PLANS TO MOVE AHEAD WITH BLACK SEA DEFENSE MINISTERIAL, BUT MAY POSTPONE
REF: STATE 19708 (NOTAL)
Classified By: Pol Mil Counselor Anthony Godfrey for reason 1.4 (b,d)
1. (C) Turkey acknowledges reftel concerns regarding the upcoming Black Sea Defense Ministerial (BSDM), but still believes that establishing a political venue for littoral states would enhance security in the Black Sea. A crowded political calendar may put off this meeting for several months: according to the Ministry of National Defense, Turkey's upcoming local elections and the intense schedule of other international meetings may require the BSDM to be postponed until after June 2009. End Summary.
2. (C) We raised reftel talking points with Rear Admiral Hakan Eraydin, Undersecretary of the Ministry of National Defense, and with Deniz Cakar, Head of the MFA's Department of NATO and Euro-Atlantic Infrastructure. Eraydin took our points on board, but did not engage on substance. He did, however, say that it was looking likely that the BSDM would be postponed. Minister Gonul, a long-serving member of PM Erdogan's Justice and Development (AK) Party, had been spending more time than expected out on the campaign trail and might not be able to devote an appropriate amount of time to preparing for the BSDM. Eraydin also cited the crowded schedule of international meetings, and admitted that when compared with upcoming NATO meetings, the BSDM could be seen as a distraction.
3. (C) The MFA's Deniz Cakar was not ready to give up on the Ministerial. She claimed to have been working on arranging the meeting since it was first proposed in December 2007 (long before Russia's actions in Georgia, she pointed out). She said that the BSDM should not be seen as a new initiative, but as a political umbrella over existing technical cooperation such as BLACKSEAFOR and Operation Black Sea Harmony. There should be a place, Cakar continued, where the Defense Ministers of littoral states can come together. She acknowledged that all littoral states were members of SEDM, but believed that was not a forum for discussing Black Sea issues.
4. (C) We argued that to hold a Ministerial meeting on Black Sea issues and not to raise the most important security events and threats of the past year made no sense. Russia's aggressiveness in the Black Sea should be a serious concern for littoral states; should Russia attend a meeting like the BSDM, it could signal that littoral states had chosen not to impose a political cost for Russia's actions in Georgia in August 2008. Cakar ceded the point, but still thought that there was value in having the ministers meet; while the agenda for this first meeting was already set, perhaps these controversial issues could be raised at a subsequent meeting.
5. (C) It has been Turkey's consistent view since August 2008 that any venue (including the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform and NATO - Russia Council Prepcons) which engages the Russians has value, even if no substance is discussed and even if the discussion might lend legitimacy to Russian positions. It will be difficult, especially so close to the date of the Ministerial, to persuade Turkey that the BSDM is not useful. We will continue to track this issue and will report if a decision to postpone has been taken.
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