Prague, 23 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today and over the weekend touches on a variety of international subjects. They include the apparent political murder of a State Duma deputy Friday in Saint-Petersburg, the conflict between Turkey and Italy over the fate of a Kurdish leader, continuing problems with Iraq, and Israel's start of an agreed-upon withdrawal from the West Bank.
NEW YORK TIMES: Galina Starovoitova was one of the few dedicated to democracy
The New York Times today entitles its editorial, "Death of a Russian Democrat." The paper writes: "The Russian reform movement has produced few leaders with an uncompromising dedication to democracy. Galina Starovoitova was one, and her murder in St. Petersburg on Friday was a terrible loss for Russia. In a bleak season of economic collapse and political timidity, the killing can only heighten fears that Russia is slipping into an ugly era of intolerance and political violence."
The editorial goes on: "Ms. Starovoitova's activities were fully in character with a career built around principles of liberty, tolerance and the rule of law. She championed democracy and human rights long before they became politically acceptable in Moscow, and courageously stood by Boris Yeltsin and other reformers as Russia struggled to find a new political course when the Soviet Union disintegrated."
The NYT concludes: "The least Yeltsin can do is to hunt down her killers and bring them to trial. That would be the exception in a nation where political violence is rarely prosecuted. Her countrymen can honor her memory by following her example."
REPUBBLICA: The Kirov murder opened the way to harsh repression
Italy's Repubblica also comments on the Starovoitova murder. It writes: "Starovoitova's murder...has put Russia in a state of shock....If it transpires that the guilty are in the ranks of the Communist Party or among other extremist or nationalist off-shoots, the Government will in all probability have to take measures to resist the resurgent 'Red Terrorism.'"
The paper adds: "This could (take place) just on the eve of the next presidential elections .... Maybe that's why there is talk in the Russian capital of a 'new Kirov case.' This (is a reference to the) Soviet leader who was murdered in 1934 in the Leningrad of those days, and whose murder opened the way for the harsh repression by Stalin."
FINANCIAL TIMES: Mr. Ocalan should be tried in Germany
The Financial Times notes in its editorial today that "the Turkish Government seems set to lose a censure vote this week, and be forced to resign. That move," the paper says, "could scarcely come at a worse time for the country, and for its neighbors in the Middle East and Europe."
The FT editorial continues: "The one thing that unites the country is a rising wave of nationalist anger....The immediate bone of contention is Italy's refusal to extradite Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdish rebel leader, who is wanted on charges of terrorism and murder in Turkey....His release...in Rome Friday has reinforced a spreading trade boycott of Italian goods by Turkish consumers..."
The editorial calls the Ocalan problem "intractable (noting that he is) sought on charges of violence and terrorism...also in Germany (and is) on Interpol's most-wanted list." It concludes that perhaps the best solution is extradition to Germany: "It is understandable that Bonn is unwilling to import Turkey's internal struggle, but if Mr. Ocalan is guilty of serious offenses in Germany, he should be tried for them."
IRISH TIMES: Turkey's political class is ill-prepared for political solutions
The Irish Times' editorial focuses on the Rome-Ankara quarrel over Ocalan. The paper writes: "The furious row between Turkey and Italy over the extradition of (the) leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) raises profound questions about their bilateral relations, but also about Turkey's objective to become a member of the European Union. Failure to resolve the Kurdish question makes it far more difficult to convince other European governments that Turkey fulfills the political conditions necessary to join."
The paper continues: "(The PKK) does not have the support of anything like Turkey's 10 to 12 million Kurdish population, but the (government's) use of brute military force to crush it in the underdeveloped southeast of the country has played into (its) hands....(The PKK) has been able to exploit the state's blanket denial that the Kurds are a separate people and the refusal to extend cultural rights to them."
The IT also says: "Turkey's political class is ill-prepared to assert the leadership required to convince the powerful military that a political solution must be found, especially with the government disintegrating ahead of general elections....A genuine effort to address the Kurdish issue politically would nevertheless be the best means of convincing Turkey's European friends, including the Italian government, that its objective to join the EU should be supported."
SUEDDEUTSCH ZEITUNG: There is no alternative to patient diplomacy
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung today writes of "a political storm over the Mediterranean." Its editorial says: "There is a threat of a new crisis....Turkish citizens and politicians should come to terms with the fact that the Italian Government and people, as well as the entire European Union, judge the Kurdish problem differently than they do."
The editorial goes on: "No responsible person in Europe views the violence-prone Ocalan as a legitimate leader of the Kurdish people. But the Turks must not act as if the Kurdish problem did not exist or as if the Turks themselves were not responsible for the many (Kurdish) deaths that have occurred."
It adds: "Strong words will only lead to renewed estrangement between Turkey and Europe. Considering Turkey's geopolitical position and desire to join the EU, this is not helpful to either side...There is no alternative to patient diplomacy."
DIE WELT: No one wants a has-been terrorist
In Germany's Die Welt Saturday, a commentary by Dietrich Alexander said that "no-one wants Abdullah Ocalan." Writing from Berlin, he said: "The Italians have dropped him like a hot potato....(So) where should he go?" Alexander asks.
He observes: "Pushed out of his (long-time Syrian) sanctuary, Ocalan found shelter with the Russians briefly, but he soon had to move on. Today, no one wants a has-been terrorist. Germany has Europe's largest Kurdish population, but it had to be ruled out by (Ocalan): There was the small problem of an outstanding arrest warrant (over) the murder of an alleged Kurdish 'traitor' near Frankfurt and arson attacks on various Turkish-owned properties around the country."
He adds: "The Kurds' liberation struggle has never had an international lobby, and Ocalan was never more than a laughable combination of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Kaddafi, keen to be portrayed as alternately a warrior and man of peace...Around the (PKK's) so-called liberation struggle and its figurehead leader there has grown up a myth, especially powerful in Kurdish exile circles."
NEWSWEEK: Saddam seems to understand more about us than we do about ourselves
The current issue of Newsweek magazine (domestic issue) carries a long commentary by columnist Meg Greenfield on democracies' difficulties in getting Iraq to comply with United Nations resolutions on mass-destruction weapons.
She writes: "The Clinton Administration and the British Government have both indicated that if Saddam Hussein resists or interferes with inspection procedures again, in the aftermath of the cancellation of the last proposed strike against him, they will both feel free to stage an attack immediately and without warning. That is the threat, which one must assume could be carried out any day."
The commentary continues: "But it is also possible that for the time being Saddam...will (remain) within the confines of the understanding that bought him a last-minute reprieve, and that he will stay there, as he usually does, until he figures the coast is clear.....He sometimes seems to understand more about us than we understand about ourselves, and chief among the things he understands is why we have so often climbed the ladder up to the 32-foot diving board --and climbed back down it-- without getting wet."
She concludes: "Our leaders will always be hoping to avoid the showdown or ameliorate it or cut it short. And the adversary will, of course, know that all too well, as Saddam Hussein always has."
WASHINGTON POST: Nothing is quite so difficult as handing over territory
The Washington Post today carries an editorial on Israel's start late last week in relinquishing West Bank territory to the Palestinians, thereby carrying out one of the strictures of the two parties' recent Wye Plantation accords. The paper says: "Nothing is quite so difficult, definitive and irreversible in international relations as handing over territory --especially handing over territory to a former but still deeply distrusted foe. This is the significance of the first pullback that Israel is now conducting..."
The paper says: "Not just religious and ultra-nationalist Israelis but also secular folk who merely want to live a normal life wonder whether the (Israeli) government is making a deal that will backfire. Yet enough of them understand the promise and necessity of exchanging Israeli-held territory for expanded Palestinian security assurances to make this first withdrawal in nearly two years a reality."
"More agonies lie ahead on the negotiating path the Israelis and Palestinians have chosen. They deserve respect for sticking to it --and the Clinton Administration credit for helping them do so."