Thursday, July 31, 2008

Briefly: Bush & Gül tout “strategic partnership,” Kosovo promises independence and Azeris install 2nd tallest flag

This was originally published in January 12, 2008 Armenian Reporter.

by Emil Sanamyan

Bush and Gül tout “strategic partnership”
President George W. Bush described Turkey as “great strategic partner” with which the United States shares a “common enemy” – the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK – during a brief joint appearance with Turkish President Abdullah Gül at the White House Rose Garden on January 8.

According to Turkish media, meeting with Mr. Bush and senior administration officials, Mr. Gül secured pledges of continued U.S. intelligence support for Turkey’s operations against rebel Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, heralding a “new era” in U.S.-Turkish ties.

Mr. Gul then travelled to New York for a January 9 dinner meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, whom he urged to launch a new initiative that would help lift international sanctions against Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus.

Mr. Gül also met with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former U.S. ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke, two key foreign policy advisors in the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.).

While in New York, Mr. Gül was also due to meet with leaders of Jewish American organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), as well as Turkish groups, including Meskhetian Turks who have received asylum in the U.S. following their expulsion from Central Asia.

Throughout the visit, Mr. Gül spoke only with Turkish journalists at his hotel. There were no opportunities for media questions during a lecture he gave at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, moderated by its president Lee Hamilton, and a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York was reportedly off the record.

At the Wilson Center, Mr. Gül spoke of Turkey’s achievements and importance in arious matters. While he did not address any Armenian issues directly, he did broadly refer to unresolved conflicts in the Caucasus and Central Asia that needed to be addressed through regional cooperation.” He listed oil and gas pipelines, as well as the ongoing construction of the Akhalkalaki-Kars Armenia rail bypass as examples of such cooperation.

Kosovo promises to declare independence next month
Hashim Thaci, the newly elected prime minister of United Nations-controlled Kosovo, promised to formally declare independence from Serbia next month, news agencies reported on January 9.

The ethnic Albanian province has been out of Serbia’s control since its 1999 occupation by U.S.-led NATO forces which accused the former Serbian government of ethnic cleansing.

“I assure you that within a few weeks we will declare independence,” Mr. Thaci said. “Kosovo’s independence is a done deal. We just need to declare it.”

United States and some European countries support Kosovo’s independence, which Serbia opposes. But they have reportedly urged Kosovars to postpone its formal declaration as part of their bargaining with Russia, which promised to block any formal recognition by the UN or transfer of its mandate to the European Union.

EU officials have said that under a new, transition arrangement Kosovo would not have total independence” but be under EU supervision, while NATO forces would continue a peacekeeping mission.

Reports coming up…
Over the next week, the New York-based Human Rights Watch and Washington-based Freedom House are due to release their annual reports on the global state of human rights in 2007.

The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal are also due to release their annual Index of Economic Freedom. The last two reports count toward eligibility for U.S. Millennium Challenge Assistance.

In Other News: Azerbaijan plans to install world’s tallest flag
But North Korea may already have a taller flagpole

WASHINGTON – The Azerbaijani government hired U.S. Trident Support Corp. to build the world’s tallest flag to be visible through much of the capital Baku, the official Azertag news agency reported on December 30. The “national project,” as it has been called, is due to be completed by May 2008.

President Ilham Aliyev and Defense Minister Safar Abiyev formally launched the construction at the newly established National Flag square in Bayilovo. According to the news agency report, the flagpole rising 150 meters (493 ft) and weighing 220 metric tons will support a 35-by-70 meter (115 x 230 ft) blue-red-and-green Azerbaijani flag that will weigh 350 kilograms.

Mr. Aliyev said that this “huge” and “very heavy” flag was meant to symbolize Azerbaijan’s independence and freedom. The Azerbaijani president said that he decreed
the flag’s construction also to mark the fact that “our great leader [official speak for his father and predecessor Heydar Aliyev]… was first to raise the Azerbaijani flag in November 1990 in Nakhichevan.”

To be able to hoist the flag, Azerbaijan imported a special crane with a lift capability of 600 tons and operational at 188-meter heights. No cost estimates were reported.

According to Trident Support, the San Diego, Calif. company built the current record-holders for the tallest free-standing flagpoles: the 127 meter-tall flagpole in Amman
and 131 meter-tall flagpole in Aqaba, both in Jordan, but also visible from nearby Israel. But, according to CNN, it is North Korea that boasts the highest flagpole in the world, rising to 160 meters (525 feet) near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) with South Korea.

But North Korea’s flag weighs 20 percent less than Azerbaijan’s. f —E.S.

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