Turkish PM: crucial meeting with president ''fruitful''
Turkey's Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said Monday, February 26, that a top security meeting with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer was "fruitful", but declined to comment on their unprecedented row last week that sparked fears of instability and wreaked havoc in the economy.
"The meeting was fruitful, a good one," a smiling Ecevit told reporters after a National Security Council (MGK) gathering, which brought him together with Sezer for the first time since last week when the cabinet and the president clashed over ways to fight corruption.
Ecevit declined to answer repeated questions on the economic turmoil, which the dispute sparked, instead hailing a decision by the MGK — which is made up of top Turkish political and military leaders — to establish a Turkish space institution.
Last Monday's row, which erupted after Sezer charged that the government's drive against corruption was insufficient, shattered the already feeble market confidence in Ecevit's three-way coalition, sending the economy into its second serious skid since December.
The wrangling between the cabinet and the president also raised concerns over the implementation of drastic reforms Turkey needs to promote its European Union membership candidacy.
A severe cash crunch forced the government last Thursday to abandon control of foreign exchange rates, effectively allowing the depreciation of the Turkish lira and the disruption a three-year IMF-backed disinflation program in place since late 1999.
The lira firmed sharply to an overall post-flotation fall of 27.9 percent early Monday after it had fallen over 36 percent on Friday. The Istanbul stock market, meanwhile, gained 7.35 percent, recovering from a record slump of 18.1 percent last week.
An MGK statement after the meeting said Turkish leaders "welcomed" the fact that work to outline a calendar of EU reforms "is being finalized." The head of Turkey's EU foreign affairs secretariat also participated in the gathering.
But the statement did not shed any light on whether the government and the president had reached a compromise, and what measures would be taken to tackle mounting economic hardship and calm the battered markets.
Ecevit's government has come under fire from opposition parties, the media and non-governmental groups, calling for a cabinet reshuffle and even an all-out resignation. But a defiant Ecevit declared Saturday that "rumors spread by certain circles that the government should quit are far from the truth and a change in the cabinet is out of the question."
The first victims of the turmoil appeared to be central bank governor Gazi Ercel and Treasury chief Selcuk Demiralp, who submitted his resignations.
Uncertainty about prospects for a new economic strategy remained unchanged, as the IMF's Turkey desk head Carlo Cottarelli continued talks with top economy officials on revising Turkey's main economic targets.
Observers agree that the president and the government should set their hostilities aside and agree on a common position to fight corruption. Many believe the government's reluctance to punish senior politicians guilty of fraud in the name of keeping the fragile coalition together was behind last week's clash between Sezer and Ecevit.
Sezer's accusations came after Ecevit criticized him for appointing a special team to inspect public banks, making huge losses, and his earlier defense of the energy minister, widely accused of turning a blind eye to fraud in multi-million-dollar energy tenders. — (AFP, Ankara)
by Sibel Utku
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)