ANKARA: Two Important Visits

Turkish Press
May 17 2004

Two Important Visits
BYEGM: 5/17/2004

SABAH- Ankara will host two stars this week, but while one of them is
on the verge of fading the other is still rising. The falling star is
British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He says that he likes his job and
is hopeful for a third term, but Britain’s ruling Labour Party has
started to prepare itself for the post-Blair era. Deputy Prime
Minister John Prescott has even said that the search for a successor
has gained momentum.

Blair’s visit is based on a decision made in the wake of last
November’s terrorist attacks in Istanbul under which the two
countries’ premiers will meet twice a year. Blair is the first to do
so. The visit’s agenda is already set: next month’s NATO summit in
Istanbul, the Greater Middle East Initiative, recent developments in
Iraq, the Cyprus issue and of course Turkey’s European Union
membership bid. Blair has been clear on his policies towards Ankara
from the beginning, plus he is honest and has taken a favorable
attitude towards Turkey. In March he said that the EU has to show its
will to accept Turkey – describing it as a proud country with a
Muslim majority – under the same conditions as its other members. He
reiterated this on May 9, adding that it has already decided that
Turkey will become an EU member, but he urged Ankara to fulfill the
conditions which other members also had to complete. There are rumors
that Blair will surprise Ankara by announcing his government’s
decision to allow direct flights to the Turkish Republic of Northern
Cyprus (TRNC). We’ll see.

The second guest, a rising star who came to power after a revolution,
is new Georgian President Mihail Saakasvili. He has pledged to do
whatever is needed to preserve Georgia’s territorial integrity, which
means that two revolutions are on the way. Sakasvili will visit
Ankara on May 20-21. It is said that he will offer his help in
mediating between Turkey and Armenia.