Prague, 30 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Numerous German and other Western newspapers today and over the weekend continue to comment on the fate of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan. Arrested in Rome earlier this month, Ocalan is the object of a German arrest warrant, but fearing troubles from its substantial Turkish and Kurdish communities, Bonn says it will not press for extradition. The ailing Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the maneuvers of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic are also the subjects of press commentary today.
NUERNBERGER ZEITUNG: Italy will have to lie in the bed it made for itself
In Germany, the Nuernberger Zeitung criticizes the attempt late last week by Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini to force Bonn to ask for Ocalan's extradition to Germany. The paper's editorial says that Dini, "by claiming that, if Germany failed to do so, it would be a major set-back in the international fight against terrorism, appeared more than pushy. The paper concludes that since "Italy decided to arrest Mr. Ocalan it will therefore have to lie in the bed it made for itself.
OSTSEE-ZEITUNG: Germany should not stick its head in the sand
The Ostsee-Zeitung, published in Rostock, disagrees. It writes in its editorial that the German Government "should show its true colors by submitting an extradition request to Italy. Germany should," it concludes, "not stick its head in the sand because it fears violence and acts of terror among its large Turkish and Kurdish communities."
AACHNER NACHRICHTEN: The Ocalan case must not set an example
The Aachner Nachrichten calls the Ocalan "situation... confused." In its editorial, the papers says: "There is no way out of the dilemma. Every conceivable step would create a loss. If Germany moves for the extradition of Ocalan --a man thought by some to be a terrorist but by others strongly honored as a national hero-- then the country's inner security is in danger."
The paper continues: "There is no question that the Federal Government will do virtually anything to avoid a civil-war-like situation. Understandably, Chancellor (Gerhard) Schroeder is leaving it to others elsewhere to take the 'red hot coal' out of the fire." "But," the editorial goes on, "those who first issued an international warrant for (Ocalan's) arrest, and now fail to demand extradition of this person apprehended abroad, have lost credibility.... (And the question arises:) Are other criminals safe from prosecution in the future because their followers are ready to make noises and threats? This (Ocalan case) must not set an example."
FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: The Kurdish problem cannot be solved simply
The Frankfurter Rundschau writes that "the Kurdish problem, exacerbated by Ocalan's (arrival in Italy), cannot be solved simply, not even with the help of an international tribunal....The PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) founder has succeeded in placing his cause directly at the feet of the Europeans. Maybe his flight to Rome represents the beginning of a new strategy for him."
The FR also says: "Ocalan is in a legally reliable environment in which his supporters can agitate pretty much without any difficulties. He is a permanent thorn in the flesh for those who have an ambivalent attitude toward Ankara, where human rights questions remain unresolved. But Ocalan as martyr? One should think not only in legal terms."
FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: It will not be that easy for Bonn and Rome to get their heads out of the nooses
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes in its editorial: "Schroeder and (Italian Prime Minister Massimo) D'Alema have magically pulled out of a hat a plan for (an international) court trial for Ocalan. That allows (the two) political opportunists to appear to show at least a semblance of rule of law. Foreign Minister (Dini) has launched an appeal for a European Union initiative (that would lead to no less than) a comprehensive solution to the Kurdish problem."
The FAZ goes on: "But it will not be that easy for Bonn and Rome to get their heads out of the nooses....Their EU partners are hardly going to be delighted that they are being called upon to act without having had a say in setting up the rules for this very complicated conflict."
The FAZ concludes: "Nobody need have any doubts about Turkey's reaction. It has already poured ice cold water on the German-Italian initiative, forbidding interference (in its internal affairs). Ankara would only react differently if the Europeans included the subject of the Kurds in the matter of Turkey's entry into the EU....All this does not show either self-assurance or courage by the two governments that have raised the EU flag high at the same time that they are pulling down their own flags very quickly."
CORRIERE DELLA SERA: The Germans are the sly ones
In Italy, the Corriere della Sera asks whether the Ocalan situation would have been "different under (former Chancellor Helmut) Kohl?" It writes: "The reason why we find ourselves landed with the 'hot potato' in our hands today is surely because we made various mistakes. Above all, the reason is because the new German government shamelessly played falsely and violated the Schengen accords (on free-flow of persons among many West European nations). This time, then, we have every right to say that it is not we who are the sly ones but rather the Germans, who otherwise are considered to be earnest and reliable..."
The editorial continues: "Would Helmut Kohl had behaved in the same way as his successor Gerhard Schroeder and the new Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer? Probably not, because the former Chancellor, unlike the new chief of (Germany's) Left Government would have given preference to national interests."
WALL STREET JOURNAL: Italy's and Germany's Ocalan solution is deplorable
The Wall Street Journal Europe today criticizes both Italian and German behavior in the Ocalan affair. The paper writes in an editorial: "Both Italy and Germany have been strikingly transparent in their desire to off-load the Ocalan problem. Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder have called for, in the vaguest possible terms, an "international court" to try the PKK, while creating a diversion with a European initiative aimed at solving the 'Kurdish question.'"
The WSJ continues: "By throwing the case to an international court, Italy and Germany have cleverly made Ocalan everybody's problem and nobody's problem. It is a neat solution that allows both countries to parry an irritating EU neighbor (Turkey) and maintain the appearance of seeking 'justice' without alienating those volatile Kurds.: The paper concludes: "Notwithstanding its undeniable political appeal for German and Italian leaders, (their) Ocalan solution is deplorable....If it is a new court they wish to create, by what authority will it derive its jurisdiction and which laws will serve as a basis for adjudicating? Even using an existing international court, the danger is obvious: When governments refuse recourse to the domestic laws of democratic societies....they undermine the rule of law itself."
NEW YORK TIMES: Today Mr. Yeltsin cannot govern
"Sick Boris Yeltsin" was the subject of a New York Times editorial yesterday (Nov. 29). The paper wrote: "Last week Russian President Boris Yeltsin was admitted, yet again, to the hospital, reportedly suffering from pneumonia. It's his third acknowledged illness in recent weeks, the others having been described as bronchitis and nervous exhaustion. Stretching back only a little farther, Mr. Yeltsin has suffered at least two heart attacks and withstood quintuple coronary-artery bypass surgery."
The editorial went on: "Certainly there's enough in Russia today to break Mr. Yeltsin's heart.....Mr. Yeltsin imagined himself retiring, when his term ends in 2000, as the revered father of Russian democracy, the man who had put Russia on the road to prosperity, civility and inclusion in the West....Instead his country is once again beseeching the West for free food so that Russians will not starve this winter. It cannot pay its debts."
The NYT summed up: "(Today) there is more logic to the (old and) widespread calls for his resignation and for a constitutional process to replace him. Whoever comes next may well be worse than a healthy Mr. Yeltsin. But Mr. Yeltsin today cannot govern; and as long as he remains president, neither can anyone else."
WASHINGTON POST: The Western allies must take the initiative from Milosevic
In the Washington Post today, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana writes a commentary that asks: "Has Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic out-maneuvered the West?" His answer: "Relying on and cooperating with Milosevic has limited our ability to support democratic change in Yugoslavia. Our democratic values have been shelved for the sake of this faulty collaboration. U.S. policy cannot work both with and against Milosevic and his allies, who do not solve problems but manipulate them for their own preservation."
Lugar goes on: "Clearly, no lasting solution to the Balkan crises is possible without fundamental change in Serbia and in the leadership of Yugoslavia. It should be a U.S. policy priority to help bring about these changes. A democratic Serbia with economic ties to Europe and its neighbors should be the ultimate goal."
He also says: "A U.S.-led policy of supporting the opposition in Yugoslavia does not guarantee an instant change in Belgrade's behavior. But if the Western allies hope to do more than respond militarily to repeated crises generated by Belgrade, they must take the initiative from Milosevic....A concerted program to promote democratic change in Serbia...offers the best prospect for... establishing stability in the Balkans and ultimately integrating Serbia into the European family."