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Western Press Review: Conflicts Tear Turkey And Kosovo Apart

By Lawrence Holland/Jan de Weydenthal/Anthony Georgieff

Prague, 26 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary in the Western press today focuses continued attention on developments in Turkey amid the pending trial of captured PKK rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan. Other comment focuses on developments in Kosovo.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The Kurdish conflict has torn Turkey apart

Mehmet Ali Birand, a Turkish commentator, writes today in the International Herald Tribune that the Kurdish conflict "...has torn Turkey apart. The population has been polarized, while human rights and democratic process have been, in many ways, shelved. The conflict has bred a sense of hopelessness, and Turkey has been weakened both within and without its borders."

"Most importantly," Birand says, "PKK terror has prevented Turkey from tackling the core of the Kurdish problem.....To do this, it must quickly set into motion a number of cultural, social and economic reforms and must be willing to pass in short order a law granting some sort of amnesty to those living in prisons who have not been guilty of heinous crimes. The restrictive laws....must be relaxed."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: European nations are certain to take Turkey to task

The Wall Street Journal commentator James Dorsey agrees. He says in today's European edition of the paper that "Turkey's Kurdish policies, like its legal infrastructure, are also certain to be on trial when Mr. Ocalan appears in court." To gain acceptance in the West, Dorsey says, "...will take a willingness to talk to moderate Kurds rather than vilify them as stooges of the PKK. It will also involve introducing minority rights in Turkey to allow Kurds full cultural rights."

Dorsey goes on to say: "With Kurdish frustration spilling onto the streets of European countries, making Turkey's Kurdish problem a European problem, European nations are certain to take Turkey to task for failing to address Kurdish concerns."

BERLINSKE TIDENDE: The EU failed to live up to its sweet talk

But the Danish Berlinske Tidende says today in an editorial that European countries have also been at least partially responsible for the current volatile situation in Turkey. It says: "The EU countries have in the past had many chances to arrest the terror organization PKK's frontman and have him tried by an international court-of-law without the peril of having him hanged. But the EU failed to live up to its sweet talk of fighting international terrorism and of supporting the international legal order....Instead, the EU chose to allow Turkey to kidnap Ocalan."

BOSTON GLOBE: Greece's actions ought to be condemned by the US its European allies

The Boston Globe says today in an editorial that the international community should look closely at Greece's involvement in the Ocalan's case. It says: "Following their military defeat in 1922, after having attacked the Turks, the Greeks executed six cabinet ministers whom they thought responsible for the humiliating failure....This time around, national humiliation did not carry such a high price. In the debacle of Greece's attempt to aid the Kurdish terrorist Abdullah Ocalan, only three cabinet ministers and the intelligence chief were asked to step down, and none was shot.

Of key importance is the fact that the four were sacked not because they had been involved with hiding an internationally wanted terrorist or for trying to harm a neighboring country and NATO ally. They were forced to resign because they had not secured a terrorist's escape from justice and because they had failed to hurt their country's NATO partner, Turkey."

The Boston Globe's editorial concludes: " the very least, Greece's actions in Ocalan's affair ought to be debated in the councils of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and condemned by the United States and its European allies."

WASHINGTON POST: Milosevic grossly violated the October deal

Turning to Kosovo, an editorial in the Washington Post says that people should not forget, amid attention to the latest Kosovo peace talks, that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic already signed a deal on the province last October, arranged by U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke.

The Post says "Now Mr. Milosevic is in gross violation of that deal. The agreement allowed him to keep far too many troops in Kosovo, but he has exceeded that limit by thousands of special police. He was supposed to keep his troops in garrison, but they have been roaming freely through the countryside."

The paper adds that Milosevic also promised to adhere to a ceasefire, release detained ethnic Albanians, and allow international war crimes investigators into Kosovo. The paper says Milosevic has failed to meet these terms of the October agreement as well, despite repeated threats of NATO action.

The Post then says: "All this is relevant to [the] inconclusive talks in France" that were suspended earlier this week. The paper continues: "It should come as no surprise that some Kosovo fighters are reluctant to lay down their arms in exchange for a promise of NATO and American protection. They can see, all around them, how much such promises have been worth so far."

AFTEJPOSTEN: The Albanians in fact gave their chief foe an unexpected present

In Norway, the daily Aftenposten writes in an editorial: "Kosovo was given a pause for thought until March 15." The paper then says that the Kosovar Albanians face a key choice.

"For the Kosovo Albanians the desire for full sovereignty is more important than an internationally brokered and guaranteed but limited autonomy. By insisting on holding a referendum, in three years, on full sovereignty, the Albanians in fact gave their chief foe, [Yugoslav] President Slobodan Milosevic, an unexpected present [because] the great powers taking part in the peace negotiations do not want to see an independent Kosovo."

The Aftenposten says that "If the [Kosovar] Albanians reject the proposals for a controlled and limited self-rule they will lose the sympathy of the international community...."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Americans are not all that sure about what they want

In a commentary in the International Herald Tribune, Flora Lewis writes from Paris that forceful statements by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Kosovo talks near the French capital this week contrast with uncertainty in the U.S. about America's global role.

She writes that according to many editors, academics and politicians in the U.S., "Americans are not interested in foreign news and do not want to be involved in foreign quarrels, like Kosovo." She continues that: "Americans are not all that sure about what they want to be and what they are prepared to do for it."

Lewis concludes: "In these circumstances, America's partners can have more influence than they suppose, if they do know the kind of world they want to see."