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Yearbook 2009

2009 TurkeyTurkey. Nearly 100 people - exgenerals and other officers, influential journalists and university rectors - were arrested during winter and spring for involvement in the ultranationalist conspiracy Ergenekon ("the deep state"). 56 people were charged with suspicion of attempting to provoke a coup against the country's Islamist government, for example through acts of violence against secular institutions. The trial began in July. 13 of the defendants risked life imprisonment. 86 others were already facing trial since 2008. In order to facilitate the judicial process, the government passed a legislative amendment that made it possible to bring militants to justice in civil courts. According to countryaah, assessors believed that regardless of the court's ruling, the scandal had shifted the balance of power in the country from the military to the government.

2009 Turkey

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan launched in August the plan "Democratic opening" aimed at reconciliation with the Kurdish minority. The plan meant, among other things, that it would be allowed to use Kurdish and other minority languages in political campaigns. 34 members of the Kurdish PKK guerrilla tested the game by crossing the Iraqi border in October and surrendering to the Turkish military. They could have been indicted for membership in a terrorist organization but instead all were released. The question was delicate; the country's nationalist opposition felt that the government was negotiating with terrorists. It was unclear whether Parliament would approve the plan. In December, the country's constitutional court decided to ban the Kurdish-friendly party DTP (Democratic Social Party), which had 21 seats in parliament. The court ruled that the party had been in contact with the PKK. Over the years, a number of similar Kurdish-friendly parties have been banned and then reformed.

Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the local elections on March 29 but received a significantly lower share of votes, 38.8 percent, than in the 2007 parliamentary elections. The AKP retained the mayor's posts in Istanbul and Ankara.

Turkey's proximity to the EU hardly progressed at all. In January, Erdoğan appointed Egemen Bagis as EU negotiator, a position with ministerial status. A new policy area, on tax reform, was opened for negotiations on June 30, opening eleven of the 35 areas. But both Germany and France remained negative to Turkish membership. The Independent Commission for Turkey, led by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, in September criticized these countries for delaying the negotiations. The main stumbling block was Turkey's refusal to recognize the state of Cyprus and open its ports and airports for Cypriot traffic.

Turkey's relationship with Israel, which has been characterized by intensive security cooperation since the 1990s, failed in the aftermath of Israel's offensive against Gaza at the New Year, which Erdoğan described as genocide. In October, Turkey canceled an air force exercise it planned to hold with Israel, and at the same time, Turkish public service TV aired a drama series in which Israeli soldiers were portrayed as bloodthirsty beasts.

The approach to Armenia went better. In April, the countries agreed on a so-called roadmap to peace under Swiss mediation. The aim was to open the border, which Turkey closed in 1993, to restore diplomatic relations and to start bilateral cooperation. The foreign ministers of both countries signed the agreement on October 10, but it remained for the parliaments to ratify it. The contradictions were about the murders of 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey in 1915-23 and Turkey's support to Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

US President Obama visited Turkey and gave a speech to Parliament on April 6, assuring that the United States was kind to Islam. Erdoğan repaid the visit in December. President Abdullah G邦l visited Iraq on March 23, where he and President Jalal Talabani signed agreements on cooperation in many areas. It was the first time in over 30 years that a Turkish head of state visited Iraq. The fighting between Turkish government troops and PKK soldiers, based in northern Iraq, continued during the year.

Turkey and four EU countries - Romania, Bulgaria, Austria and Hungary - agreed in July to build the 330-kilometer Nabucco gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea to Europe. Many legal details remained to be resolved.

More than 30 people were killed in the fall of September 7-10 in northwestern Turkey and the northern outskirts of Istanbul.

A smoking ban was introduced in July at all bars, cafes and restaurants. The ban sparked widespread protests.

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