Turkey

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Posted by r2d2 02/28/2009 @ 10:39

Tags : turkey, europe, world

News headlines
Turkey seek to ease Azeri worries on Armenia ties - Reuters
Erdogan was in Baku to ease Azerbaijan's concerns over reconciliation moves by Turkey and Armenia to end decades of hostility. These have alarmed Azerbaijan which first wants to resolve Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory over which it fought a war with...
Alibaba.com Forms Strategic Alliance With Turkey's Logo Group - Wall Street Journal
HK) said Wednesday it formed a strategic alliance with Turkish software developer Logo Group, which will help it expand in Turkey. Alibaba.com, which operates online business-to-business platforms, said in a statement it will sell site memberships to...
Clash in Iranian border area kills eight - report - Reuters
TEHRAN, May 13 (Reuters) - Eight people died in fighting between gunmen and a religious militia in northwestern Iran near Turkey and Iraq, a government daily reported on Wednesday. Kurdish separatist guerrillas based in remote mountainous areas in Iraq...
May 13th Press Review - Turkish Press
Afterwards, asked about recent statements by German and French leaders suggesting a "privileged partnership" for Turkey in lieu of full membership, Gul said, "The EU unanimously decided to open membership negotiations with Turkey....
Hostages taken during Turkish bank robbery - Reuters
ANKARA, May 13 (Reuters) - Two armed men took some hostages during an attempted bank robbery in western Turkey on Wednesday and police were trying to negotiate with them, officials said. The incident was taking place in the Aegean tourist resort of...
BASS television director finds a new outdoors obsession: Hunting ... - ESPN
This was the second time I had gone turkey hunting. By the time we left I knew it would not be my last. Admittedly, before I went on my first turkey hunt 10 days earlier, I had studied this sport for two years. I bought turkey hunting magazines,...
Turkey's Denizbank says Q1 net profit up 48 percent - Reuters
ISTANBUL, May 12 (Reuters) - Turkey's Denizbank (DENIZ.IS), a unit of Belgian-French group Dexia (DEXI.BR), said on Tuesday it posted consolidated net profit of 126 million lira ($81 million) in the first quarter, up 48 percent from a year ago....
Turkey firms seek bigger credit fund against crisis - Forbes
The economic woes are hitting Turkey's manufacturers hard, while the economy is expected to shrink around 5 percent this year and unemployment has hit a historic high. Tightly-regulated banks are unwilling to extend loans to financially fragile small...
Turkey - Factors to Watch on May 12 - Forbes
Turkey's current account deficit fell 76.8 percent year-on-year in March to $992 million, official data showed on Monday after markets closed, signalling weak demand as the country heads towards recession. A Reuters poll forecast $1.3 billion deficit....

Accession of Turkey to the European Union

Turkey joined the Council of Europe in 1949 and is regarded as a founding member of the organization

Turkey's application to accede to the European Union (previously the European Communities) was made on 14 April 1987. Turkey has been an associate member of the European Union (EU) and its predecessors since 1963. After the eleven founding members, Turkey was one of the first countries to become a member of the Council of Europe in 1949, and was also a founding member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1961 and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 1973. It has also been an associate member of the Western European Union since 1992. Turkey signed a Customs Union agreement with the EU in 1995 and was officially recognised as a candidate for full membership on 12 December 1999, at the Helsinki summit of the European Council. Negotiations were started on 3 October 2005, and the process is likely to take at least a decade to complete. The membership bid has become a major controversy of the ongoing enlargement of the European Union.

The modern Republic of Turkey is the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, an Islamic power in Europe between the late 14th and the early 20th centuries; but by the 19th century it had sunk into a decline that led some to call it the "sick man of Europe." After the Empire's collapse following World War I, Turkish revolutionaries led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk emerged victorious in the Turkish War of Independence, establishing modern Turkey as it currently exists today. Atatürk, then Prime Minister and later President of Turkey, implemented a series of reforms that modernized the country and moved it more towards European culture. During World War II, Turkey remained neutral until February 1945, when it joined the Allies. During the Cold War, Turkey allied itself with the United States, taking part in the Marshall Plan in 1947, joining as a member state the Council of Europe in 1949, and joining NATO in 1952.

Turkey first applied for associate membership in the European Economic Community in 1959, and on 12 September 1963 signed the "Agreement Creating An Association Between The Republic of Turkey and the European Economic Community", also known as the Ankara Agreement. This agreement came into effect the following year on 12 December 1964. The Ankara Agreement sought to integrate Turkey into a customs union with the EEC whilst acknowledging the final goal of membership. In November 1970, a further protocol called the "Additional Protocol" established a timetable for the abolition of tariffs and quotas on goods traded between Turkey and the EEC.

1980 saw a temporary stop in relations as a result of the 1980 Turkish military coup following political and economic instability, though the recommencement of multiparty elections in 1983 saw Turkish-EEC relations fully restored. On 14 April 1987, Turkey submitted its application for formal membership into the European Community. The European Commission responded in December 1989 by confirming Ankara’s eventual membership but also by deferring the matter to more favorable times, citing Turkey’s economic and political situation, as well its poor relations with Greece and the conflict with Cyprus as creating an unfavorable environment with which to begin negotiations. This position was confirmed again in the Luxembourg European Council of 1997 in which accession talks were started with central and eastern European states and Cyprus, but not Turkey. During the 1990s, Turkey proceeded with a closer integration with the European Union by agreeing to a customs union in 1995. Moreover, the Helsinki European Council of 1999 proved a milestone as the EU recognised Turkey as a candidate on equal footing with other potential candidates.

With the 2002 election of the pro-European Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a number of reforms led to increasing stability both politically and economically. In 2004, as part of the drive to enter a reunified Cyprus into the EU, the Turkish government supported the UN-backed Annan Plan for Cyprus. This plan was accepted by Turkish Cypriots, but rejected by the Greek Cypriots. At the same time, a three-decade-long period of hyperinflation ended, with inflation reduced to 6% from annual levels of 75% during the mid-1990s.

The political reform program of the Erdoğan government continued. This included the abolition of capital punishment, crackdown on torture, and more rights for its Kurdish population. In response to these developments, the European Commission recommended that the negotiations should begin in 2005, but also added various precautionary measures. The EU leaders agreed on 16 December 2004 to start accession negotiations with Turkey from 3 October 2005. Despite an offer from the Austrian People's Party and the German Christian Democratic Union of a privileged partnership status, a less than full membership, EU accession negotiations were officially launched.

Turkey's accession talks have since been dogged by a number of domestic and external problems. Several European states such as Austria have made their reluctance to allow Turkey into Europe clear. The issue of Cyprus continues to be a major obstacle to negotiations. European officials have commented on the slowdown in Turkish reforms which, combined with the Cyprus problem, has led the EU’s enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn to warn of an impeding ‘train crash’ in negotiations with Turkey. Due to these setbacks, negotiations again came to a halt in December 2006, with the EU freezing talks in 8 of the 35 key areas under negotiation.

The earliest date that Turkey could enter the EU is 2013, the date when the next financial perspectives (the EU's six year budgetary perspectives) will come into force. Ankara is currently aiming to comply with EU law by this date, but Brussels has refused to back 2013 as a deadline. It is believed that the accession process will take at least until 2021.

In order to accede to the EU, Turkey must first successfully complete negotiations with the European Commission on each of the 35 chapters of the EU's acquis and then the member states must unanimously agree to Turkish membership. Public opinion in EU countries generally opposes Turkish membership, though with varying degrees of intensity, although political leaders and politicians of the European Union generally support it. Some countries, notably France and Austria, have discussed putting the decision to a referendum.

Turkey’s entry into the EU may have profound consequences on the future direction of the EU. The issues mentioned by some of those objecting to Turkey's EU candidacy can be divided among those inherent to Turkey's situation, those that involve internal issues about human rights, democracy, and related matters, and those concerning Turkey's open external disputes with its neighbours. There is much contention over whether some of these arguments are used as proxies to hide a feeling that the country is not culturally European and therefore should be denied entry.

Proponents of Turkey's membership argue that it's a key regional power with a large economy and the second largest military force of NATO that will enhance the EU's position as a global geostrategic player; given Turkey's geographic location and economic, political, cultural and historic ties in regions with large natural resources that are at the immediate vicinity of the EU's geopolitical sphere of influence; such as the East Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts, the Middle East, the Caspian Sea basin and Central Asia.

Upon joining the EU, Turkey's 71 million inhabitants would bestow it the second largest number of MEPs in the European Parliament. Demographic projections indicate that Turkey would surpass Germany in the number of seats by 2020.

EU member states must unanimously agree on Turkey's membership for the Turkish accession to be successful. A number of nations can oppose it, notably Austria, which historically served as a bulwark for Christian Europe against the Ottoman Empire; and France, which is fearful of the prospect of another wave of Muslim immigrants, especially given the poor integration of its existing Muslim minority.

Attempts to change the French constitution to remove the compulsory referendum on all EU accessions after Croatia resulted in a new clause requiring compulsory referendums on the accession of all countries with a population of more than 5% of the EU's total population; this clause would apply to Turkey and Ukraine. The French Senate, however, blocked the change in the French constitution, in order to maintain good relations with Turkey.

Turkey, a developed country, has the seventh largest economy in the Council of Europe and the fifteenth largest economy in the world. Turkey is a founding member of the OECD and the G-20 major economies.

Turkey's GDP growth rate from 2002 to 2007 averaged 7.4%, which made it one of the fastest growing economies in the world during that period. The World Bank forecasts a 5.4% GDP growth rate for Turkey in 2008. Turkey's economy is no longer dominated by traditional agricultural activities in the rural areas, but more so by a highly dynamic industrial complex in the major cities, mostly concentrated in the western provinces of the country, along with a developed services sector. In 2007, the agricultural sector accounted for 8.9% of the GDP, while the industrial sector accounted for 30.8% and the services sector accounted for 59.3%. The tourism sector has experienced rapid growth in the last twenty years, and constitutes an important part of the economy. In 2008, there were 30,929,192 visitors to the country, who contributed 21.9 billion USD to Turkey's revenues. Other key sectors of the Turkish economy are banking, construction, home appliances, electronics, textiles, oil refining, petrochemical products, food, mining, iron and steel, machine industry and automotive. Turkey has a large and growing automotive industry, which produced 1,147,110 motor vehicles in 2008, ranking as the 6th largest automotive producer in Europe in that year; behind Germany (5,819,614), France (3,174,260), Spain (2,770,435), the United Kingdom (1,648,388), and Italy (1,211,594), respectively. Turkey is also one of the leading shipbuilding nations; in 2007 the country ranked 4th in the world (behind China, South Korea and Japan) in terms of the number of ordered ships, and also 4th in the world (behind Italy, USA and Canada) in terms of the number of ordered mega yachts.

Turkey's per-capita GDP places it among the upper-middle income countries. In 2006, Eurostat calculated the minimum monthly wage in Turkey as €331, which was larger than the minimum monthly wage in nine European Union member states, namely Bulgaria (€82), Romania (€90), Latvia (€129), Lithuania (€159), Slovakia (€183), Estonia (€192), Poland (€234), Hungary (€247) and the Czech Republic (€261).

According to Forbes magazine, Istanbul, Turkey's financial capital, had a total of 35 billionaires as of March 2008 (up from 25 in 2007), ranking 4th in the world behind Moscow (74 billionaires), New York City (71 billionaires) and London (36 billionaires), while ranking above Hong Kong (30 billionaires), Los Angeles (24 billionaires), Mumbai (20 billionaires), San Francisco (19 billionaires), Dallas (15 billionaires) and Tokyo (15 billionaires).

The opening of talks regarding the Economic and Monetary Policy acquis chapter of Turkey's accession bid was expected to begin in June 2007, but were stalled by France.

Statistics show that the birth rate is declining in the entire continent of Europe. Especially in Eastern Europe and Russia, population growth is negative. The EU member states already set a goal to solve the impact of the aging population. Turkey has a young population. This might act as a balance for the increasingly aging populations of the current EU.

As of 2005, the population of Turkey stood at 72.6 million with a growth rate of 1.5% per annum. The Turkish population is relatively young, with 25.5% falling within the 0–15 age bracket. Population growth is expected to slow, as Turkey has a sub-replacement fertility level.

According to statistics released by the government in 2005, life expectancy stands at 68.9 years for men and 73.8 years for women, with an overall average of 71.3 years for the populace as a whole. Education is compulsory and free from ages six to 15.

The Turkish people, are an ethnic group, defined more by a sense of sharing a common Turkish culture and having a Turkish mother tongue, than by citizenship, religion or by being subjects to any particular country.

The word Turk or Turkish also has a wider meaning in a historical context because, at times in the past, it has been used to refer to all Muslim inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire irrespective of their ethnicity. The question of ethnicity in modern Turkey is a highly debated and difficult issue. Figures published in several different sources prove this difficulty by varying greatly.

The territory of Turkey is more than 1,600 kilometres (1,000 mi) long and 800 km (500 mi) wide, with a roughly rectangular shape. Turkey's area, inclusive of lakes, occupies 783,562 square kilometres (300,948 sq mi), of which 755,688 square kilometres (291,773 sq mi) are in Southwest Asia and 23,764 square kilometres (9,174 sq mi) in Europe, thus making Turkey a transcontinental country. Turkey's area makes it the world's 37th-largest country, and is about the size of Metropolitan France and the United Kingdom combined.

Ankara, the Turkish capital, is in Anatolia, the Asian part of Turkey. Istanbul, Turkey's most populous city, and its cultural and financial centre, is the only metropolis in the world which is situated on two continents. Istanbul was chosen as European Capital of Culture for 2010.

Turkey's membership would mean that the European Union's external borders would reach the Middle Eastern neighbors of Turkey, such as Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The island of Cyprus is still divided after the Turkish invasion in 1974, following a coup d'etat by Nikos Sampson against the Cypriot government of Archbishop Makarios III and fully supported by the Greek military junta of 1967-1974 in Athens under its de facto leader Brigadier General Dimitrios Ioannides. Turkey's original intention, which was declared on July 20, 1974, by the Prime Minister of that period, Bülent Ecevit, was to prevent the island's annexation to Greece and to bring an end to the Cypriot intercommunal violence which took place between 1963 and 1974. Since 1974, Turkey refuses to acknowledge the Republic of Cyprus (an EU member since 2004) as the sole authority on the island, and recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the north. Turkey and Turkish Cypriots backed the 2004 Annan Plan for Cyprus aimed at the reunification of the island, but the plan was subsequently rejected by Greek Cypriots on the grounds that it did not meet their needs. According to Cypriots, the latest proposal included maintained residence rights for the many Anatolian Turks that were brought to Cyprus after the invasion and their descendants, and Greek-Cypriots who lost their property after the Turkish invasion would be granted only a restricted right of return. Although the outcome received much criticism in the EU as well, the Republic of Cyprus was admitted into the EU a week after the referendum.

The Turkish government has refused to officially recognise the state of Republic of Cyprus until the removal of the political and economic blockade on the TRNC. Turkey's non-recognition of the Republic of Cyprus has led to complications within the Customs Union. Under the customs agreements Turkey already signed as a precondition to start negotiations in 2005, it is obliged to open its ports to Cypriot planes and vessels, but Turkey refuses this and insists it will only do so after the EU proposal to open up direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots and provide €259,000,000 in funds to help them upgrade their infrastructure is fulfilled. Greek Cypriots have subsequently threatened to veto accession talks unless Turkey complies.

Greece has had a history of rejecting Turkey's membership. Greece has been supportive overall of Turkish membership, with Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis declaring, "Full compliance, full accession" in December 2006. In 2005 the European Commission referred to relations between Turkey and Greece as "continuing to develop positively" while also citing the lack of progress made by Turkey in dropping their claim of casus belli over a dispute about territorial waters boundaries.

Turkey has a secular constitution, with no official state religion. Nominally, though, 99% of the Turkish population is Muslim of whom over 70% belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. A sizeable minority, about over 25% of the Muslim population, is affiliated with the Shi'a Alevi sect. The Bektashi belong to a Sufi order of Islam that is indigenous to Turkey, but also has numerous followers in the Balkan peninsula, particularly in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYR Macedonia, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria. The Christians (Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Gregorian, Syriac, Protestant) and Jews (Sephardic, Ashkenazi) are the two other sizable religious minorities in the country. Turkey would be the first Muslim-majority country to join the European Union, although Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, also Muslim-majority, have been recognized as potential candidate countries.

The number of practising Muslims, Christians, Jews or followers of other faiths is not known, because newborn babies are automatically registered to the faith of their parents (in most cases the father) and this remains as such on their identification papers, unless they have it changed or removed with a court's order after reaching the age of 18. Official population census polls in Turkey do not include information regarding a person's religious belief or ethnic background due to the regulations set by the Turkish constitution, which defines all citizens of the Republic of Turkey as Turkish in terms of nationality, regardless of faith or race.

There is a strong tradition of secularism in Turkey. The state has no official religion nor promotes any, and actively monitors the area between the religions. The constitution recognizes the freedom of religion for individuals, whereas religious communities are placed under the protection of the state; but the constitution explicitly states that they cannot become involved in the political process (by forming a religious party, for instance) or establish faith-based schools. No party can claim that it represents a form of religious belief; nevertheless, religious sensibilities are generally represented through conservative parties. Turkey prohibits by law the wearing of religious headcover and theo-political symbolic garments for both genders in government buildings, schools, and universities; the law was upheld by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights as "legitimate" in the Leyla Şahin v. Turkey case on 10 November 2005.

The EU was especially critical of this law during the September 2005 trial of novelist Orhan Pamuk over comments that recognized the deaths of thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians. Enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn and members of the European Parliament called the case "regrettable", "most unfortunate", and "unacceptable". After the case was dropped three months later, Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül indicated that Turkey may abandon or modify Article 301, stating that "there may be need for a new law". In September 2006, the European Parliament called for the abolition of laws, such as Article 301, "which threaten European free speech norms". On April 30, 2008, the law was reformed. According to the reform, it is now a crime to explicitly insult the "Turkish nation" rather than "Turkishness"; opening court cases based on Article 301 require the approval of the Justice Minister; and the maximum punishment has been reduced to two years in jail.

Kemal Kerinçsiz, an ultra-nationalist lawyer, and other members of Büyük Hukukçular Birliği (Great Jurists Union) headed by Kerinçsiz, have been "behind nearly all of trials." In January 2008, Kerinçsiz was arrested for participating in an ultra-nationalist underground organization, Ergenekon, allegedly behind the attacks on the Turkish Council of State and Cumhuriyet newspaper, the assassination of several Christian missionaries and Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, as well as allegedly plotting the assassination of Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk.

In its second report on women's role in social, economic and political life in Turkey, the European Parliament emphasized that respecting human rights, including women’s rights, is a condition sine qua non for Turkey's membership of the EU. According to the report, Turkey's legal framework on women's rights "has in general been satisfactory, but its substantive implementation remains flawed".

Turkey is one of the two states (with Azerbaijan) among the 47 members of the Council of Europe which has refused to recognize the status of conscientious objectors or give them an alternative to military service.

Public opinion in EU countries generally opposes Turkish membership, though with varying degrees of intensity. The Eurobarometer September-October 2006 survey shows that 59% of EU-27 citizens are against Turkey joining the EU, while only about 28% are in favour. Nearly all citizens (about 9 in 10) expressed concerns about human rights as the leading cause. In the earlier March-May 2006 Eurobarometer, citizens from the new member states were more in favour of Turkey joining (44% in favour) than the old EU-15 (38% in favour). At the time of the survey, the country whose population most strongly opposed Turkish membership was Austria (con: 81%), while Romania was most in favour of the accession (pro: 66%). On a wider political scope, the highest support comes from the Turkish Cypriot Community (pro: 67%) (which is not recognised as sovereign state and is de facto not EU territory and out of the European institutions). These communities are even more in favour of the accession than the Turkish populace itself (pro: 54%). Opposition in Denmark to Turkish membership was polled at 60% in October 2007, despite the Danish government's support for Turkey's EU bid.

The opening of membership talks with the EU in December 2004 was celebrated by Turkey with much fanfare, but the Turkish populace has become increasingly skeptical as negotiations are delayed based on what it views as lukewarm support for its accession to the EU and alleged double standards in its negotiations (France and Austria have indicated they will hold referendums on Turkey's membership). A mid-2006 Eurobarometer survey revealed that 43% of Turkish citizens view the EU positively; just 35% trust the EU, 45% support enlargement and just 29% support an EU constitution.

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Turkey

Flag of Turkey

Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye), known officially as the Republic of Turkey ( Türkiye Cumhuriyeti (help·info)), is a Eurasian country that stretches across the Anatolian peninsula in western Asia and Thrace (Rumelia) in the Balkan region of southeastern Europe. Turkey is bordered by eight countries: Bulgaria to the northwest; Greece to the west; Georgia to the northeast; Armenia, Azerbaijan (the exclave of Nakhichevan) and Iran to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the southeast. The Mediterranean Sea and Cyprus are to the south; the Aegean Sea and Archipelago are to the west; and the Black Sea is to the north. Separating Anatolia and Thrace are the Sea of Marmara and the Turkish Straits (the Bosporus and the Dardanelles), which are commonly reckoned to delineate the border between Asia and Europe, thereby making Turkey transcontinental.

Due to its strategic location astride two continents, Turkey's culture has a unique blend of Eastern and Western tradition. A powerful regional presence in the Eurasian landmass with strong historic, cultural and economic influence in the area between Europe in the west and Central Asia in the east, Russia in the north and the Middle East in the south, Turkey has come to acquire increasing strategic significance.

Turkey is a democratic, secular, unitary, constitutional republic whose political system was established in 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War I. Since then, Turkey has become increasingly integrated with the West through membership in organizations such as the Council of Europe, NATO, OECD, OSCE and the G-20 major economies. Turkey began full membership negotiations with the European Union in 2005, having been an associate member of the EEC since 1963, and having reached a customs union agreement in 1995. Meanwhile, as a Muslim-majority country, Turkey has continued to foster close cultural, political, economic and industrial relations with the Eastern world, particularly with the states of the Middle East and Central Asia, through membership in organizations such as the OIC and ECO. Turkey is classified as a developed country by the CIA and as a regional power by political scientists and economists worldwide.

The name of Turkey, Türkiye in the Turkish language, can be divided into two words: Türk, which means "Strong" in Old Turkic and usually signifying the inhabitants of Turkey or a member of the Turkish or Turkic peoples, a later form of "Tu–kin", a name given by the Chinese to the people living south of the Altay Mountains of Central Asia as early as 177 BCE; and the abstract suffix –iye (derived from the Arabic suffix –iyya, but also associated with the Medieval Latin suffix –ia in Turchia, and the Medieval Greek suffix –ία in Τουρκία), which means "owner" or "related to". The first recorded use of the term "Türk" or "Türük" as an autonym is contained in the Orkhon inscriptions of the Göktürks (Sky Turks) of Central Asia (c. 8th century CE). The English word "Turkey" is derived from the Medieval Latin "Turchia" (c. 1369).

The Anatolian peninsula (also called Asia Minor), comprising most of modern Turkey, is one of the oldest continually inhabited regions in the world due to its location at the intersection of Asia and Europe. The earliest Neolithic settlements such as Çatalhöyük (Pottery Neolithic), Çayönü (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A to Pottery Neolithic), Nevali Cori (Pre-Pottery Neolithic B), Hacilar (Pottery Neolithic), Göbekli Tepe (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A) and Mersin are considered to be among the earliest human settlements in the world. The settlement of Troy starts in the Neolithic and continues into the Iron Age. Through recorded history, Anatolians have spoken Indo-European, Semitic and Kartvelian languages, as well as many languages of uncertain affiliation. In fact, given the antiquity of the Indo-European Hittite and Luwian languages, some scholars have proposed Anatolia as the hypothetical center from which the Indo-European languages have radiated.

The first major empire in the area was that of the Hittites, from the 18th through the 13th century BCE. Subsequently, the Phrygians, an Indo-European people, achieved ascendancy until their kingdom was destroyed by the Cimmerians in the 7th century BCE. The most powerful of Phrygia's successor states were Lydia, Caria and Lycia. The Lydians and Lycians spoke languages that were fundamentally Indo-European, but both languages had acquired non-Indo-European elements prior to the Hittite and Hellenistic periods.

Starting around 1200 BC, the west coast of Anatolia was settled by Aeolian and Ionian Greeks. The entire area was conquered by the Persian Achaemenid Empire during the 6th and 5th centuries and later fell to Alexander the Great in 334 BCE. Anatolia was subsequently divided into a number of small Hellenistic kingdoms (including Bithynia, Cappadocia, Pergamum, and Pontus), all of which had succumbed to Rome by the mid-1st century BCE. In 324 CE, the Roman emperor Constantine I chose Byzantium to be the new capital of the Roman Empire, renaming it New Rome (later Constantinople and Istanbul). After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it became the capital of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire).

The House of Seljuk was a branch of the Kınık Oğuz Turks who in the 9th century resided on the periphery of the Muslim world, north of the Caspian and Aral Seas in the Yabghu Khaganate of the Oğuz confederacy. In the 10th century, the Seljuks started migrating from their ancestral homelands towards the eastern regions of Anatolia, which eventually became the new homeland of Oğuz Turkic tribes following the Battle of Manzikert (Malazgirt) in 1071. The victory of the Seljuks gave rise to the Anatolian Seljuk Sultanate; which developed as a separate branch of the larger Seljuk Empire that covered parts of Central Asia, Iran, Anatolia and Southwest Asia.

In 1243, the Seljuk armies were defeated by the Mongols and the power of the empire slowly disintegrated. In its wake, one of the Turkish principalities governed by Osman I was to evolve into the Ottoman Empire, thus filling the void left by the collapsed Seljuks and Byzantines.

The Ottoman Empire interacted with both Eastern and Western cultures throughout its 623-year history. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was among the world's most powerful political entities, often locking horns with the Holy Roman Empire in its steady advance towards Central Europe through the Balkans and the southern part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth on land; and with the combined forces (Holy Leagues) of Habsburg Spain, the Republic of Venice and the Knights of St. John at sea for the control of the Mediterranean basin; while frequently confronting Portuguese fleets at the Indian Ocean for defending the Empire's monopoly over the ancient maritime trade routes between East Asia and Western Europe, which had become increasingly compromised since the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope in 1488.

Following years of decline, the Ottoman Empire entered World War I through the Ottoman-German Alliance in 1914, and was ultimately defeated. After the war, the victorious Allied Powers sought the dismemberment of the Ottoman state through the Treaty of Sèvres.

The occupation of İstanbul and İzmir by the Allies in the aftermath of World War I prompted the establishment of the Turkish national movement. Under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha, a military commander who had distinguished himself during the Battle of Gallipoli, the Turkish War of Independence was waged with the aim of revoking the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres. By September 18, 1922, the occupying armies were repelled and the country saw the birth of the new Turkish state. On November 1, the newly founded parliament formally abolished the Sultanate, thus ending 623 years of Ottoman rule. The Treaty of Lausanne of July 24, 1923, led to the international recognition of the sovereignty of the newly formed "Republic of Turkey" as the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, and the republic was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923, in the new capital of Ankara.

Mustafa Kemal became the republic's first president and subsequently introduced many radical reforms with the aim of founding a new secular republic from the remnants of its Ottoman past. According to the Law on Family Names, the Turkish parliament presented Mustafa Kemal with the honorific name "Atatürk" (Father of the Turks) in 1934.

Turkey entered World War II on the side of the Allies on February 23, 1945 as a ceremonial gesture and became a charter member of the United Nations in 1945. Difficulties faced by Greece after the war in quelling a communist rebellion, along with demands by the Soviet Union for military bases in the Turkish Straits, prompted the United States to declare the Truman Doctrine in 1947. The doctrine enunciated American intentions to guarantee the security of Turkey and Greece, and resulted in large-scale US military and economic support.

After participating with the United Nations forces in the Korean conflict, Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952, becoming a bulwark against Soviet expansion into the Mediterranean. Following a decade of intercommunal violence on the island of Cyprus and the Greek military coup of July 1974, overthrowing President Makarios and installing Nikos Sampson as dictator, Turkey intervened militarily in 1974. Nine years later the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was established. The TRNC is recognised only by Turkey.

Following the end of the single-party period in 1945, the multi-party period witnessed tensions over the following decades, and the period between the 1960s and the 1980s was particularly marked by periods of political instability that resulted in a number of military coups d'états in 1960, 1971, 1980 and a post-modern coup d'état in 1997. The liberalization of the Turkish economy that started in the 1980s changed the landscape of the country, with successive periods of high growth and crises punctuating the following decades.

Turkey is a parliamentary representative democracy. Since its foundation as a republic in 1923, Turkey has developed a strong tradition of secularism. Turkey's constitution governs the legal framework of the country. It sets out the main principles of government and establishes Turkey as a unitary centralized state.

The head of state is the President of the Republic and has a largely ceremonial role. The president is elected for a five-year term by direct elections. The last President, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, was elected on May 16, 2000, after having served as the President of the Constitutional Court. He was succeeded on August 28, 2007, by Abdullah Gül. Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers which make up the government, while the legislative power is vested in the unicameral parliament, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature, and the Constitutional Court is charged with ruling on the conformity of laws and decrees with the constitution. The Council of State is the tribunal of last resort for administrative cases, and the High Court of Appeals for all others.

The Prime Minister is elected by the parliament through a vote of confidence in his government and is most often the head of the party that has the most seats in parliament. The current Prime Minister is the former mayor of İstanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose conservative AKP won an absolute majority of parliamentary seats in the 2002 general elections, organized in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2001, with 34% of the suffrage. In the 2007 general elections, the AKP received 46.6% of the votes and could defend its majority in parliament. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Ministers have to be members of the parliament, but in most cases they are (one notable exception was Kemal Derviş, the Minister of State in Charge of the Economy following the financial crisis of 2001; he is currently the president of the United Nations Development Programme).

Universal suffrage for both sexes has been applied throughout Turkey since 1933, and every Turkish citizen who has turned 18 years of age has the right to vote. As of 2004, there were 50 registered political parties in the country, whose ideologies range from the far left to the far right. The Constitutional Court can strip the public financing of political parties that it deems anti-secular or separatist, or ban their existence altogether.

There are 550 members of parliament who are elected for a four-year term by a party-list proportional representation system from 85 electoral districts which represent the 81 administrative provinces of Turkey (İstanbul is divided into three electoral districts whereas Ankara and İzmir are divided into two each because of their large populations). To avoid a hung parliament and its excessive political fragmentation, only parties that win at least 10% of the votes cast in a national parliamentary election gain the right to representation in the parliament. As a result of this threshold, the 2007 elections saw three parties formally entering the parliament (compared to two in 2002). However, due to a system of alliances and independent candidatures, seven parties are currently represented in the parliament. Independent candidates may run; however, they must also win at least 10% of the vote in their circonscription to be elected.

Turkey is a founding member of the United Nations (1945), the OECD (1961), the OIC (1969), the OSCE (1973), the ECO (1985), the BSEC (1992) and the G-20 major economies (1999). On October 17, 2008, Turkey received the votes of 151 countries and was elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, on behalf of the Western European and Others Group, together with Austria which received 132 votes. Turkey's membership of the council will effectively begin on January 1, 2009. Turkey had previously been a member of the U.N. Security Council in 1951-1952, 1954-1955 and 1961.

In line with its traditional Western orientation, relations with Europe have always been a central part of Turkish foreign policy. Turkey became a founding member of the Council of Europe in 1949, applied for associate membership of the EEC (predecessor of the European Union) in 1959 and became an associate member in 1963. After decades of political negotiations, Turkey applied for full membership of the EEC in 1987, became an associate member of the Western European Union in 1992, reached a Customs Union agreement with the EU in 1995 and has officially begun formal accession negotiations with the EU on October 3, 2005. It is believed that the accession process will take at least 15 years due to Turkey's size and the depth of disagreements over certain issues. These include disputes with EU member Republic of Cyprus over Turkey's 1974 military intervention to prevent the island's annexation to Greece. Since then, Turkey does not recognize the essentially Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus as the sole authority on the island, but instead supports the Turkish Cypriot community in the form of the de facto Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

The other defining aspect of Turkey's foreign relations has been its ties with the United States. Based on the common threat posed by the Soviet Union, Turkey joined NATO in 1952, ensuring close bilateral relations with Washington throughout the Cold War. In the post-Cold War environment, Turkey's geostrategic importance shifted towards its proximity to the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Balkans. As well as hosting an important NATO air base near Syria and Iraq for U.S. operations in the region, Turkey's status as a secular democracy and its positive relations with Israel made Ankara a crucial ally for Washington. In return, Turkey has benefited from the United States' political, economic and diplomatic support, including in key issues such as the country's bid to join the European Union.

Since the late 1980s, Turkey began to increasingly cooperate with the leading economies of East Asia, particularly with Japan and South Korea, on a large number of industrial sectors; ranging from the co-production of automotive and other transportation equipment, such as high-speed train sets, to electronical goods, home appliances, construction materials and military hardware.

The independence of the Turkic states of the Soviet Union in 1991, with whom Turkey shares a common cultural and linguistic heritage, allowed Turkey to extend its economic and political relations deep into Central Asia. The most salient of these relations saw the completion of a multi billion dollar oil and natural gas pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to the port of Ceyhan in Turkey. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, as it is called, has formed part of Turkey's foreign policy strategy to become an energy conduit to the West. However, Turkey's border with Armenia, a state in the Caucasus, remains closed following its occupation of Azeri territory during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Relations with Armenia have been further strained by the controversy surrounding the forced deportations and related deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, recognised by a number of countries and historians as the Armenian Genocide. Turkey rejects the term genocide, arguing instead that the deaths were a result of disease, famine and inter-ethnic strife.

The Turkish Armed Forces consists of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The Gendarmerie and the Coast Guard operate as parts of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in peacetime, although they are subordinated to the Army and Navy Commands respectively in wartime, during which they have both internal law enforcement and military functions.

The Turkish Armed Forces is the second largest standing armed force in NATO, after the U.S. Armed Forces, with a combined strength of 1,043,550 uniformed personnel serving in its five branches. Every fit male Turkish citizen otherwise not barred is required to serve in the military for a time period ranging from three weeks to fifteen months, dependent on education and job location. Turkey does not recognise conscientious objection and does not offer a civilian alternative to military service.

In 1998, Turkey announced a program of modernization worth US$160 billion over a twenty year period in various projects including tanks, fighter jets, helicopters, submarines, warships and assault rifles. Turkey is also a Level 3 contributor to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, gaining an opportunity to develop and influence the creation of the next generation fighter spearheaded by the United States.

Turkey has maintained forces in international missions under the United Nations and NATO since 1950, including peacekeeping missions in Somalia and former Yugoslavia, and support to coalition forces in the First Gulf War. Turkey maintains 36,000 troops in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and has had troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. stabilization force and the UN-authorized, NATO-commanded International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) since 2001. In 2006, the Turkish parliament deployed a peacekeeping force of Navy patrol vessels and around 700 ground troops as part of an expanded United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the wake of the Israeli-Lebanon conflict.

The Chief of the General Staff is appointed by the President, and is responsible to the Prime Minister. The Council of Ministers is responsible to the parliament for matters of national security and the adequate preparation of the armed forces to defend the country. However, the authority to declare war and to deploy the Turkish Armed Forces to foreign countries or to allow foreign armed forces to be stationed in Turkey rests solely with the parliament. The actual Commander of the armed forces is the Chief of the General Staff General İlker Başbuğ who succeeded General Yaşar Büyükanıt on August 30, 2008.

The capital city of Turkey is Ankara. The territory of Turkey is subdivided into 81 provinces for administrative purposes. The provinces are organized into 7 regions for census purposes; however, they do not represent an administrative structure. Each province is divided into districts, for a total of 923 districts.

Provinces usually bear the same name as their provincial capitals, also called the central district; exceptions to this custom are the provinces of Hatay (capital: Antakya), Kocaeli (capital: İzmit) and Sakarya (capital: Adapazarı). Provinces with the largest populations are İstanbul (+12 million), Ankara (+4.4 million), İzmir (+3.7 million), Bursa (+2.4 million), Adana (+2.0 million) and Konya (+1.9 million).

The biggest city and the pre-Republican capital İstanbul is the financial, economic and cultural heart of the country. Other important cities include İzmir, Bursa, Adana, Trabzon, Malatya, Gaziantep, Erzurum, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Konya, Mersin, Eskişehir, Diyarbakır, Antalya and Samsun. An estimated 70.5% of Turkey's population live in urban centers. In all, 18 provinces have populations that exceed 1 million inhabitants, and 21 provinces have populations between 1 million and 500,000 inhabitants. Only two provinces have populations less than 100,000.

Turkey is a transcontinental Eurasian country. Asian Turkey (made up largely of Anatolia), which includes 97% of the country, is separated from European Turkey by the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles (which together form a water link between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean). European Turkey (eastern Thrace or Rumelia in the Balkan peninsula) includes 3% of the country.

The territory of Turkey is more than 1,600 kilometres (1,000 mi) long and 800 km (500 mi) wide, with a roughly rectangular shape. Turkey's area, inclusive of lakes, occupies 783,562 square kilometres (300,948 sq mi), of which 755,688 square kilometres (291,773 sq mi) are in Southwest Asia and 23,764 square kilometres (9,174 sq mi) in Europe. Turkey's area makes it the world's 37th-largest country, and is about the size of Metropolitan France and the United Kingdom combined. Turkey is encircled by seas on three sides: the Aegean Sea to the west, the Black Sea to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Turkey also contains the Sea of Marmara in the northwest.

The European section of Turkey, in the northwest, is Eastern Thrace, and forms the borders of Turkey with Greece and Bulgaria. The Asian part of the country, Anatolia (also called Asia Minor), consists of a high central plateau with narrow coastal plains, between the Köroğlu and East-Black Sea mountain range to the north and the Taurus Mountains to the south. Eastern Turkey has a more mountainous landscape, and is home to the sources of rivers such as the Euphrates, Tigris and Aras, and contains Lake Van and Mount Ararat, Turkey's highest point at 5,165 metres (16,946 ft).

Turkey is geographically divided into seven regions: Marmara, Aegean, Black Sea, Central Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia, Southeastern Anatolia and the Mediterranean. The uneven north Anatolian terrain running along the Black Sea resembles a long, narrow belt. This region comprises approximately one-sixth of Turkey's total land area. As a general trend, the inland Anatolian plateau becomes increasingly rugged as it progresses eastward.

Turkey's varied landscapes are the product of complex earth movements that have shaped the region over thousands of years and still manifest themselves in fairly frequent earthquakes and occasional volcanic eruptions. The Bosporus and the Dardanelles owe their existence to the fault lines running through Turkey that led to the creation of the Black Sea. There is an earthquake fault line across the north of the country from west to east, which caused a major earthquake in 1999.

The coastal areas of Turkey bordering the Mediterranean Sea have a temperate Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet and cold winters. Conditions can be much harsher in the more arid interior. Mountains close to the coast prevent Mediterranean influences from extending inland, giving the central Anatolian plateau of the interior of Turkey a continental climate with sharply contrasting seasons. Winters on the plateau are especially severe. Temperatures of −30 °C to −40 °C (−22 °F to -40 °F) can occur in the mountainous areas in the east, and snow may lie on the ground 120 days of the year. In the west, winter temperatures average below 1 °C (34 °F). Summers are hot and dry, with temperatures generally above 30 °C (86 °F) in the day. Annual precipitation averages about 400 millimetres (15 in), with actual amounts determined by elevation. The driest regions are the Konya plain and the Malatya plain, where annual rainfall frequently is less than 300 millimetres (12 in). May is generally the wettest month, whereas July and August are the most dry.

Turkey is a founding member of the OECD and the G-20 major economies.

During the first six decades of the Republic, between 1923 and 1983, Turkey has mostly adhered to a quasi-statist approach with strict government planning of the budget and government-imposed limitations over private sector participation, foreign trade, flow of foreign currency, and foreign direct investment. However, starting from 1983, Turkey began a series of reforms that were initiated by Prime Minister Turgut Özal and designed to shift the economy from a statist, insulated system to a more private-sector, market-based model. The reforms spurred rapid growth, but this growth was punctuated by sharp recessions and financial crises in 1994, 1999 (following the earthquake of that year), and 2001, resulting in an average of 4% GDP growth per annum between 1981 and 2003. Lack of additional fiscal reforms, combined with large and growing public sector deficits and widespread corruption, resulted in high inflation, a weak banking sector and increased macroeconomic volatility.

Since the economic crisis of 2001 and the reforms initiated by the finance minister of the time, Kemal Derviş, inflation has fallen to single-digit numbers, investor confidence and foreign investment have soared, and unemployment has fallen. The IMF forecasts a 6% inflation rate for Turkey in 2008. Turkey has gradually opened up its markets through economic reforms by reducing government controls on foreign trade and investment and the privatisation of publicly owned industries, and the liberalisation of many sectors to private and foreign participation has continued amid political debate.

The GDP growth rate from 2002 to 2007 averaged 7.4%, which made Turkey one of the fastest growing economies in the world during that period. The World Bank forecasts a 5.4% GDP growth rate for Turkey in 2008. Turkey's economy is no longer dominated by traditional agricultural activities in the rural areas, but more so by a highly dynamic industrial complex in the major cities, mostly concentrated in the western provinces of the country, along with a developed services sector. In 2007, the agricultural sector accounted for 8.9% of the GDP, while the industrial sector accounted for 30.8% and the services sector accounted for 59.3%.

The tourism sector has experienced rapid growth in the last twenty years, and constitutes an important part of the economy. In 2008, there were 30,929,192 visitors to the country, who contributed 21.9 billion USD to Turkey's revenues.

Other key sectors of the Turkish economy are banking, construction, home appliances, electronics, textiles, oil refining, petrochemical products, food, mining, iron and steel, machine industry and automotive. Turkey has a large and growing automotive industry, which produced 1,024,987 motor vehicles in 2006, ranking as the 6th largest automotive producer in Europe in that year; behind Germany (5,819,614), France (3,174,260), Spain (2,770,435), the United Kingdom (1,648,388), and Italy (1,211,594), respectively. Turkey is also one of the leading shipbuilding nations; in 2007 the country ranked 4th in the world (behind China, South Korea and Japan) in terms of the number of ordered ships, and also 4th in the world (behind Italy, USA and Canada) in terms of the number of ordered mega yachts.

In recent years, the chronically high inflation has been brought under control and this has led to the launch of a new currency, the New Turkish Lira, on January 1, 2005, to cement the acquisition of the economic reforms and erase the vestiges of an unstable economy. On January 1, 2009, the New Turkish Lira was renamed once again as the Turkish Lira, with the introduction of new banknotes and coins. As a result of continuing economic reforms, inflation has dropped to 8.2% in 2005, and the unemployment rate to 10.3%. In 2004, it was estimated that 46.2% of total disposable income was received by the top 20% income earners, while the lowest 20% received 6%.

Turkey has taken advantage of a customs union with the European Union, signed in 1995, to increase its industrial production destined for exports, while at the same time benefiting from EU-origin foreign investment into the country. In 2005, exports amounted to 73.5 billion USD while the imports stood at 116.8 billion USD, with increases of 16.3% and 19.7% compared to 2004, respectively. For 2006, the exports amounted to 85.8 billion USD, representing an increase of 16,8% over 2005. In 2007 the exports reached 115.3 billion USD (main export partners: Germany 11.2%, UK 8%, Italy 6.95%, France 5.6%, Spain 4.3%, USA 3.88%; total EU exports 56.5%.) However, larger imports amounting to about 162.1 billion USD threaten the balance of trade (main import partners: Russia 13.8%, Germany 10.3%, China 7.8%, Italy 6%, USA 4.8%, France 4.6%, Iran 3.9%, UK 3.2%; total EU imports 40.4%; total Asia imports 27%).

After years of low levels of foreign direct investment (FDI), Turkey succeeded in attracting 21.9 billion USD in FDI in 2007 and is expected to attract a higher figure in following years. A series of large privatizations, the stability fostered by the start of Turkey's EU accession negotiations, strong and stable growth, and structural changes in the banking, retail, and telecommunications sectors have all contributed to a rise in foreign investment.

The population of Turkey stood at 71.5 million with a growth rate of 1.31% per annum, based on the 2008 Census. It has an average population density of 92 persons per km². The proportion of the population residing in urban areas is 70.5%. People within the 15–64 age group constitute 66.5% of the total population, the 0–14 age group corresponds 26.4% of the population, while 65 years and higher of age correspond to 7.1% of the total population. According to the CIA Factbook, life expectancy stands at 70.67 years for men and 75.73 years for women, with an overall average of 73.14 years for the populace as a whole. Education is compulsory and free from ages 6 to 15. The literacy rate is 95.3% for men and 79.6% for women, with an overall average of 87.4%. The low figures for women are mainly due to the traditional customs of the Arabs and Kurds who live in the southeastern provinces of the country.

Article 66 of the Turkish Constitution defines a "Turk" as "anyone who is bound to the Turkish state through the bond of citizenship"; therefore, the legal use of the term "Turkish" as a citizen of Turkey is different from the ethnic definition. However, the majority of the Turkish population are of Turkish ethnicity. Other major ethnic groups (large portions of whom have been extensively Turkicized since the Seljuk and Ottoman periods) include the Abkhazians, Adjarians, Albanians, Arabs, Assyrians, Bosniaks, Circassians, Hamshenis, Kurds, Laz, Pomaks, Roma, Zazas and the three officially recognized minorities (per the Treaty of Lausanne), i.e. the Armenians, Greeks and Jews. The Kurds, a distinct ethnic group concentrated mainly in the southeastern provinces of the country, are the largest non-Turkic ethnicity. Minorities other than the three officially recognized ones do not have any special group privileges, while the term "minority" itself remains a sensitive issue in Turkey. Reliable data on the exact ethnic repartition of the population is not available since the Turkish census figures do not include racial figures. Turkish is the sole official language throughout Turkey. Reliable figures for the linguistic repartition of the populace are not available for reasons similar to those cited above. Nevertheless, the public broadcaster TRT broadcasts programmes in local languages and dialects of Arabic, Bosnian, Circassian and Kurdish a few hours a week. A fully fledged Kurdish language television channel, TRT 6, was opened in early 2009.

Turkey is officially a secular republic, with no official state religion; the Turkish Constitution provides the freedom of religion and conscience, but does not represent or promote a religion. The population of Turkey is predominantly Muslim (99%), the majority are Sunni (75%) and a large minority are Alevi (15-25%). The remainder of the population are mainly Christians (mostly Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic) and Jews (96% Sephardi and 4% Ashkenazi.) According to a nationwide survey in 2007, 96.8% of Turkish citizens have a religion, while 3.2% are irreligious and atheists. 56% of male Muslim citizens regularly attend Friday prayers. According to a Pew Research Center report in 2002, 65% of the people believe "religion is very important", while according to a Eurobarometer poll in 2005, 95% of citizens responded that they believe "there is a God".

Turkey has a very diverse culture that is a blend of various elements of the Oğuz Turkic, Anatolian, Ottoman (which was itself a continuation of both Greco-Roman and Islamic cultures) and Western culture and traditions, which started with the Westernization of the Ottoman Empire and still continues today. This mix originally began as a result of the encounter of Turks and their culture with those of the peoples who were in their path during their migration from Central Asia to the West. As Turkey successfully transformed from the religion-based former Ottoman Empire into a modern nation-state with a very strong separation of state and religion, an increase in the methods of artistic expression followed. During the first years of the republic, the government invested a large amount of resources into fine arts; such as museums, theatres, opera houses and architecture. Because of different historical factors playing an important role in defining the modern Turkish identity, Turkish culture is a product of efforts to be "modern" and Western, combined with the necessity felt to maintain traditional religious and historical values.

Turkish music and literature form great examples of such a mix of cultural influences, which were a result of the interaction between the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic world along with Europe, thus contributing to a blend of Turkic, Islamic and European traditions in modern-day Turkish music and literary arts. Turkish literature was heavily influenced by Persian and Arabic literature during most of the Ottoman era, though towards the end of the Ottoman Empire, particularly after the Tanzimat period, the effect of both Turkish folk and European literary traditions became increasingly felt. The mix of cultural influences is dramatized, for example, in the form of the "new symbols the clash and interlacing of cultures" enacted in the works of Orhan Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Architectural elements found in Turkey are also testaments to the unique mix of traditions that have influenced the region over the centuries. In addition to the traditional Byzantine elements present in numerous parts of Turkey, many artifacts of the later Ottoman architecture, with its exquisite blend of local and Islamic traditions, are to be found throughout the country, as well as in many former territories of the Ottoman Empire. Sinan is widely regarded as the greatest architect of the classical period in Ottoman architecture. Since the 18th century, Turkish architecture has been increasingly influenced by Western styles, and this can be particularly seen in Istanbul where buildings like the Blue Mosque and the Dolmabahçe Palace are juxtaposed next to numerous modern skyscrapers, all of them representing different traditions.

The most popular sport in Turkey is football. Turkey's top teams include Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş. In 2000, Galatasaray cemented its role as a major European club by winning the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup. Two years later the Turkish national team finished third in the 2002 World Cup Finals in Japan and South Korea, while in 2008 the national team reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Euro 2008 competition. The Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul hosted the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final, while the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium in Istanbul will host the 2009 UEFA Cup Final.

Other mainstream sports such as basketball and volleyball are also popular. Turkey hosted the Finals of EuroBasket 2001 and will also host the Finals of the 2010 FIBA World Championship. The men's national basketball team finished second in EuroBasket 2001 and reached the quarter-finals of the 2006 FIBA World Championship; while Efes Pilsen S.K. won the Korac Cup in 1996, finished second in the Saporta Cup of 1993, and made it to the Final Four of Euroleague and Suproleague in 2000 and 2001. Turkish basketball players such as Mehmet Okur and Hidayet Türkoğlu have also been successful in the NBA. Women's volleyball teams, namely Eczacıbaşı and Vakıfbank Güneş Sigorta, have won numerous European championship titles and medals.

The traditional Turkish national sport has been the Yağlı güreş (Oiled Wrestling) since Ottoman times. Edirne hosts the annual Kırkpınar oiled wrestling tournament since 1361. International wrestling styles governed by FILA such as Freestyle wrestling and Greco-Roman wrestling are also popular, with many European, World and Olympic championship titles won by Turkish wrestlers both individually and as a national team. Another major sport in which the Turks have been internationally successful is weightlifting; as Turkish weightlifters, both male and female, have broken numerous world records and won several European, World and Olympic championship titles. Naim Süleymanoğlu and Halil Mutlu have achieved legendary status as one of the few weightlifters to have won three gold medals in three Olympics.

Motorsports have become popular recently, especially following the inclusion of the Rally of Turkey to the FIA World Rally Championship calendar in 2003, and the inclusion of the Turkish Grand Prix to the Formula 1 racing calendar in 2005. Other important annual motorsports events which are held at the Istanbul Park racing circuit include the MotoGP Grand Prix of Turkey, the FIA World Touring Car Championship, the GP2 Series and the Le Mans Series. From time to time Istanbul and Antalya also host the Turkish leg of the F1 Powerboat Racing championship; while the Turkish leg of the Red Bull Air Race World Series, an air racing competition, takes place above the Golden Horn in Istanbul. Surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, paragliding and other extreme sports are becoming more popular every year.

1 Has part of its territory outside Europe.  2 Entirely in West Asia but having socio-political connections with Europe.  3 Has dependencies or similar territories outside Europe. 4 Name disputed by Greece; see Macedonia naming dispute. 5 Declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008 and is recognised by 55 United Nations member states.

For dependent and other territories, see Dependent territory.

1 Partly or significantly in Europe.  2 The Republic of China (Taiwan) is not officially recognized by the United Nations; see Political status of Taiwan. 3 Partly or significantly in Africa.  4 Partly or wholly reckoned in Oceania.

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Foreign relations of Turkey

Countries in which Turkey maintains its own embassy

Foreign relations of the Republic of Turkey are the Turkish government's policies in its external relations with the international community. Historically, based on the Western-inspired reforms of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, such policies have placed heavy emphasis on Turkey's relationship with the Western world, especially in relation to the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. The post-Cold War period has seen a diversification of relations, with Turkey seeking to strengthen its regional presence in the Balkans, the Middle East and the Caucasus, as well as its historical goal of E.U. membership.

Turkish application to join the European Economic Community (now the European Union) as an associate member in 1959 soon resulted in associate membership in 1963, with full membership being acknowledged as the final goal. However, problems in foreign policy such as the Cyprus conflict and the internal political turbulence from the 1970s until the early 1980s forced Turkey to delay applying for full membership of the European Community until 1987. The application was rejected, although the E.C. did say that Turkish membership could occur at some point in the future.

An EU-Turkey Customs Union came into effect on January 1, 1996, allowing goods to travel between Turkey and the E.U. member states without customs restrictions, although it crucially stopped short of lifting restrictions in areas such as agriculture.

The European Union confirmed Turkey's status as candidate for membership at the European Council's Helsinki Summit in 1999. The accession talks did not follow immediately, however, as the E.U. said Turkey had to make significant reforms, particularly in the field of human rights, before the talks could begin. Turkey's current administration has identified EU membership as its top priority, and has taken many - and sometimes controversial - reform packages through the Parliament aimed at gradually harmonizing Turkey with E.U. standards. Since October 2005, Turkey has formally started accession negotiations with the E.U. and these will be based on the acquis communautaire.

Turkey has close historical, cultural, economic and political ties with the Balkan states, which are important for Turkey as they are the country's gateway to continental Europe. Turkey attaches importance to the creation of an atmosphere of mutual understanding and peaceful co-habitation through closer ties with the Balkan countries, which would lead to the preservation of peace and stability in the region. Turkey has participated in NATO operations and peacekeeping missions, contributing to the KFOR and the United Nations police mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the European Union Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUPM), as well as the EU-led police mission “Proxima” in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Turkey is also contributing to the EUFOR-ALTHEA. For the reconstruction efforts; Turkey is part of launching the Southeastern European Cooperation Process (SEECP), and the Multinational Peace Force Southeast Europe (MPFSEE)/Southeastern Europe Brigade (SEEBRIG). Turkey also plays a role in regional economic initiatives as well as the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe initiated by the EU and the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI).

Turkey announced its support for the 2004 Annan Plan for Cyprus. The plan was accepted by the Turkish Cypriots (but not by 2/3, although a simple majority was needed), but overwhelmingly (3/4) rejected by the Greek Cypriots. Turkey continues to recognize the TRNC at the expense of the Cypriot government in the south, and thus far, the Turkish Embassy in (north) Nicosia is the only official diplomatic mission in the TRNC. The issue of recognition became a thorn in Turkey's candidacy for European Union membership, particularly after the internationally-recognized south was admitted to the Union in 2004.

Friendship between Turkey and the United States dates to the late 18th century, when Turkey was part of the Ottoman Empire, and was officially sealed by a treaty in 1830. The close relationship between the modern Republic of Turkey and the United States began with the Second Cairo Conference in December 4-6, 1943, and the agreement of July 12, 1947 which implemented the Truman Doctrine. As part of the cooperative effort to further improve Turkish economic and military self-reliance, the United States has loaned and granted Turkey more than $12.5 billion in economic aid and more than $14 billion in military assistance.

Turkey participated with the United States during the Korean War of the early 1950s, providing active military support to the U.S. forces. During the Gulf War of 1990, the Turkish Armed Forces contributed to the coalition forces, and Turkey supported the initiatives of the U.S. in the region. Turkey has hosted the Incirlik Air Base, a major operations base of the United States Air Force, since 1954. Following its membership in 1952, Turkey became the bulwark of NATO's southeastern flank, directly bordering Warsaw Pact countries and risking nuclear war on its soil during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In the post Cold War environment, though still committed to its close relations with Washington, Turkey became a more independent actor. Although Turkey supported the United States in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, there was strong domestic opposition to the Iraq War. A government motion to allow U.S. troops to attack Iraq from Turkey's border failed to reach the necessary majority. This led to a cooling in relations between the U.S. and Turkey and fears of a permanent rift due to the situation in Iraq. Turkey is particularly cautious about an independent Kurdish state arising from a destabilised Iraq; it has previously fought an insurgent war on its own soil, in which an estimated 37,000 people lost their lives, against the PKK (listed as a terrorist organization by a number of states and organisations, including the U.S. and the EU). This led the Turkish government to put pressure on the U.S. to clamp down on insurgent training camps in northern Iraq, without much success. On October 17, 2007, the Turkish Parliament voted in favour of allowing the Turkish Armed Forces to take military action against the PKK rebels based in northern Iraq. In response, U.S. President George W. Bush stated that he did not believe it's in Turkey's interests to send troops into Iraq.

The U.S. and Turkey have had a Joint Economic Commission and a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement for several years. In 2002, the two countries indicated their joint intent to upgrade bilateral economic relations by launching an Economic Partnership Commission. In 2005, Turkish exports to the U.S. totaled $4.9 billion, and U.S. exports to Turkey totaled $5.3 billion.

Turkey has strong cultural and linguistic ties with the predominantly Turkic nations of Central Asia. Economic and political relations are developing rapidly, and are likely to grow even more quickly with Turkey's recent elimination of visa requirements for citizens of the Central Asian Turkic republics. The Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) has formed an alliance of trade between Turkey and the Central Asian states. Turkey is even working on developing solid relations with the other nations of the region, namely Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

Afghanistan was the second country to recognize the Republic of Turkey, after the Soviet Union. Turkey supports the Bonn Process and the Central Government in Afghanistan. Turkey participated in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) since its inception and assumed the command of ISAF II between June 2002 and February 2003, and ISAF VII between February and August 2005. Turkey provides training for the Afghan National Army and Police Force. Turkey has undertaken a number of reconstruction projects in the fields of education, health and agriculture. Turkish construction firms are also active in the country with investments.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk created a radical shift in Turkish domestic and foreign policy by instituting a strong tradition of secular democracy, which had its roots in the West. Atatürk was an admirer of Enlightenment in many ways and made numerous reforms to modernize Turkey, based on the principles of positivist and rationalist Enlightenment, which he believed would foster educational and scientific progress. In this period, Turkey shifted increasingly towards the West, while culturally and ideologically distancing itself from the conservative mindset, practices and traditions of the Middle East, which were regarded by the Turkish revolutionaries as the source of the backwardness that had caused the Ottoman Empire to collapse.

Facing strong domestic opposition in Turkey, a government motion to allow U.S. troops to attack Iraq from Turkey's border failed to reach the necessary majority in 2003. A primary concern for Turkey was an independent Kurdish state arising from a destabilised Iraq; it has previously fought an insurgent war on its own soil, in which an estimated 37,000 people lost their lives, against the PKK (listed as a terrorist organization by a number of states and organisations, including the U.S. and the EU).

The United States' reluctance to threaten the relative stability of northern Iraq by launching operations against the PKK led the Turkish Parliament to authorise a cross border military operation in 2007. On February 22, 2008, the Turkish Armed Forces launched a ground operation in northern Iraq against the PKK rebels in a move described as the first significant Turkish ground offensive into Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. The ground offensive was preceded by air strikes of the Turkish Air Force against the PKK camps in northern Iraq, which began on December 16, 2007. Turkey's armed forces stepped up their offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq on February 27, 2008 amid rising diplomatic tensions between Baghdad and Ankara. The Turkish military pulled out of northern Iraq on February 29, 2008. Turkish troops fired artillery shells into northern Iraq on March 5, 2008.

Turkish-Iranian relations have essentially been peaceful since 1923. There are an estimated 18 to 25.5 million Turkic speakers in Iran (the Iranian Azeris and Turkmens) who mostly live in the northern regions of the country. However, a period of coldness in bilateral relations existed following the 1979 Iranian Revolution due to the conflicting ideologies of secular Turkey and theocratic Iran. Ankara has long suspected Iran's support for Islamist organizations and militant groups in Turkey. Nevertheless, the economic and political relations between the two countries have significantly improved in the recent years. Today, Iran and Turkey cooperate in a wide variety of fields that range from fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, and promoting stability in Iraq and Central Asia. Both countries have strongly advocated Iraqi territorial integrity since the beginning of the 2003 Iraqi invasion. Iran and Turkey also have very close economic relations. Both countries are part of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and both were once members of the CENTO alliance. Turkey receives a significant number of Iranian tourists every year, while Iran is a major natural gas supplier of Turkey. Turkish construction companies have undertaken important projects in Iran, such as the new Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran.

Although Turkey shares its longest common border with Syria, relations between the two countries have often been strained. Water disputes have been a major source of conflict, as Turkey has constructed several dams on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers to develop the region. Additionally, the self-annexation of the Hatay State to Turkey in 1939 was never recognized by Syria, which continues to show the Hatay Province of Turkey as part of Syria's territory on maps. Hatay became independent from Syria, then a French mandate, in 1938, and became a parliamentary republic with an ethnic Turkish majority; and 8 months later it decided to join Turkey with a referendum.

Turkey has condemned Syria for supporting the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization internationally by a number of states and organizations, including the USA, NATO and the EU. It is said that Syria employed the highest-ranking Nazi alive, Alois Brunner, to train Kurdish militants against Turkey. The two countries came to the brink of war when Turkey threatened military action if Syria continued to shelter Abdullah Öcalan in Damascus, his long-time safe haven. Relations have improved since October 1998, when Öcalan left Damascus and Syria pledged to stop harboring the PKK rebels.

Although matters between Ankara and Beirut have never been tense; relations between Turkey and Lebanon have mostly been coldly dormant owing to the former's quietness towards the Second Infitada because of its' closeness to Israel. However relations between the two countries have the hope of thickening because of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's actions during the Offensive in Gaza.

Turkey was the first country with a Muslim majority to formally recognize the State of Israel, on March 28, 1949; before Israel was admitted to the United Nations on May 11, 1949. Israel is considered by many as Turkey's closest ally in the world, after the United States. The founders of the State of Israel and prominent Israeli politicians such as David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and Moshe Shertok had all studied in the leading Turkish schools of Istanbul in their youth, namely Galatasaray Lisesi and Istanbul University.

The history of the Jewish-Turkish relations dates back to the medieval Khazar Empire. The nobility class of the Khazar Turks converted to Judaism at some point between the last decades of the 8th and the early decades of the 9th centuries AD. Later, in the 14th-16th centuries, the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid II invited the Sephardic Jews fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions to settle in the Ottoman Empire. The later record of warm relations dates to the 19th century, when the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, himself of Jewish origin, supported the Ottoman Empire in numerous disputes, particularly in the Berlin Congress of 1878. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Republic of Turkey again served as a safe haven for the European Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi-perpetrated Holocaust. A Turkish diplomat, Selahattin Ulkumen, is honoured as one of the Righteous Among The Nations for his work in rescuing Jews from Nazi officials on the island of Rhodes, by issuing them Turkish visas and later arranging for their transport to Turkish territory. Another diplomat, Necdet Kent, also rescued Jews from Nazi authorities, for which he was awarded a special medal by the government of the State of Israel.

Israel has been a major supplier of arms to Turkey. Military, strategic, and diplomatic cooperation between Turkey and Israel is accorded very high priority by the governments of both countries, which share concerns with respect to the regional instabilities in the Middle East. In the book Israel's Secret Wars, Benny Morris provides an account of how Mossad operatives based in Turkey infiltrated into Iraq and orchestrated a number of Iraqi Kurdish uprisings to weaken the Iraqi government. It has been reported that the Israeli Mossad played a major role in the capture of the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999. The Israeli and Turkish navies have conducted joint exercises. Turkey also provides its large air space (something Israel lacks) to the jets of the Israeli Air Force for training purposes, particularly the area around the Konya Air Base in central Anatolia. There is a plan to build a massive pipeline from Turkey to supply water, electricity, gas and oil to Israel. In 2000, Israel and Turkey signed a Free Trade Agreement.

In the beginning of 2006, the Israeli Foreign Ministry characterized its relations with Turkey as "perfect". However, in February 2006, a visit paid by Khaled Meshal, leader of the newly elected Hamas, changed this status. Israeli diplomats went so far as to compare this visit to a possible official visit of Abdullah Öcalan (the imprisoned PKK leader) to Israel, but Turkish authorities immediately denounced this comparison as "irresponsible and erroneous". After Khaled Meshal paid an official visit to Russia, Turkish-Israeli relations entered a "cooling down" process. Some have suggested that this was only a public relations stunt to show the Islamic world that Turkey was on their side because Turkey had been silent in major issues important to Arabs and the Islamic community such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Lebanon crisis.

New tensions arose in Turkish-Israeli relations during the Israel's attack on Gaza in 2008-2009. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan became among the most outspoke critics of Israels conduct in the war, referring to its military operatiosn as a "crime against humanity". Although at political and military levels the two nations enjoy a close relationship, mass opinion in Turkey is generally sympathetic towards the Palestinians. Relations suffered a further blow when during the World Economic Forum in Davos at 29 January 2009, Prime Minister Erdogan walked out of the forum in protest, frustrated that he had not been given enough time to reply to Israeli President Shimon Peres. Erdogan harshly criticsed the President, stating Israel knew "very well how to kill".

Despite its close supportive bond with its geopolitical rival, Pakistan, Turkey's relations with India have always been generally friendly and stable, though at certain times cold. The two nations have been in contact with each other since the early times of the Ottoman Empire; Turkey and India work closely with each other to fight cultural terrorism in the Middle East, Central, and South Asia. India was also one of many countries to recognize the newly-independent Turkey and send political aid to combat the subsequent poverty and benefit the war effort.

Pakistan and Turkey are close allies and support each other on a number of issues including the Kashmir dispute and Cyprus, as well as the Palestinian conflict. Pakistan, in turn, is one of the only countries in the world which fully and consistently supports Turkish positions on many issues, such as Cyprus and Armenia. Both are members of the ECO, and citizen's attitudes towards one another are warm. Despite Pakistan's close ties to Greece, and Turkey's ties to India, both countries regard each other's relations as more important and close to those with Greece and India. In a broader context, Pakistan's foreign relations with Turkey are the second most important for the country after China. Additionally, Pakistani ties to Turkey are not complicated by the ideological tensions over Islam. Whereas relations with Saudi Arabia cause a great deal of unease amongst many Pakistanis (especially over Wahabbism), Turkish ties are free from such issues.

The relationship dates back to the Turkish War of Independence, where members of the Muslim League (later founders of Pakistan) donated large sums of money and arms towards the Turkish war effort, which ultimately contributed to Turkey's victory. Further, secularists in Pakistan often reference the virtues of Ataturk, while conservatives in Turkey often quote Iqbal. Additionally, all of Pakistan's major cities feature prominent roads named after Ataturk.

The former Soviet republics in the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) are important for Turkey politically, economically, socially and culturally. The country develops policies in this region taking into account its strategic importance, due to its energy resources and pipeline corridors.

Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia's independence in 1991. In 1994 Turkey closed its border with Armenia and imposed economic sanctions when Armenian forces took control of the Kelbajar region of Azerbaijan during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Turkey does not recognize the de facto independent republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian populated enclave that declared its independence from Azerbaijan in 1991. Armenia claims that Turkey is using the blockade in order to isolate their country with projects such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Baku railway, both of which bypass Armenia. Both Armenian and Turkish politicians have publicly expressed a desire for the blockade to be lifted, but little has been done.

Turkey shares a similar culture with Azerbaijan. In addition, Turkish and Azerbaijani languages are mutually intelligible. Turkey has been a staunch supporter of Azerbaijan in its efforts to consolidate its independence, preserve its territorial integrity and realize its economic potential arising from the rich natural resources of the Caspian Sea. Turkey approaches the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict using the Minsk Process and standing by the principal of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. It supported indirect bilateral talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia. With the aim of playing a facilitator role, Turkey initiated a trilateral process of dialogue (Reykjavik, 2002 & Istanbul Summit, 2004) among the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia. The three states are also members of the BSEC, the OSCE and the Council of Europe, which provide international platforms of cooperation and dialogue between them.

There are currently no diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia. The land border between the two states has remained closed since the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War. However, airliner flights between Yerevan and Istanbul resumed in 2005. In the recent years, large numbers of Armenian workers have moved to Turkey, around 40,000 in Istanbul alone, contributing to the build-up of closer relations between the two nations. Next to the closed land border, the disagreements over the definition of the so-called Armenian Genocide and whether it was state-sponsored or a local ethnic conflict, remains the biggest issue in the tense relations between the two countries. Most historians and scholars agree that the deaths of as many as 1,500,000 Armenians during the final years of the Ottoman Empire were a result of state-sponsored genocide. Turkey rejects that the Armenian death toll fits the legal U.N. definition of genocide and also rejects the 1.5 million figure as the final death toll, insisting that the deaths were closer to the range of 200,000-600,000. and were the result of disease, famine and inter-ethnic strife.

Turkey has a close partnership relations with Georgia. Turkish citizens can use the Batumi Airport in Georgia, which is run by Turkey's Tepe-Akfen-Vie consortium (TAV), without a visa or passport. Turkey views the Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflicts as a potential danger to peace and stability in the entire region. The resolution of these problems is essential for the preservation of peace and stability in the area. Turkey has shown a readiness to be a negotiator for the Abkhazian conflict.

Turkey is a founding member of the United Nations (1945), the OECD (1961), the OIC (1969), the OSCE (1973), and the G20 industrial nations (1999). Turkey is a member state of the Council of Europe (1949) and NATO (1952) as well as being in full accession negotiations with the European Union since 2005, having been an associate member since 1963. Turkey is also an associate member of the Western European Union since 1992 and signed the E.U. Customs Union agreement in 1995.

Turkey entered NATO in 1952 and serves as the organization's vital eastern anchor, controlling the Turkish Straits which lead from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and sharing a border with Syria, Iraq, and Iran. A NATO headquarters is located in İzmir, and the United States has maintained air forces at the Incirlik Air Base in the province of Adana.

Turkey is also a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1995. It has signed free trade agreements with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Israel, and many other countries. In 1992, Turkey and 10 other regional nations formed the BSEC to expand regional trade and economic cooperation.

Turkey and Greece have clashed for decades over the status of Aegean islands and over the extent of territorial waters and airspace. The tensions came to the brink of war on a number of occasions, most recently in 1996, when Greek and Turkish warships faced each other close to the disputed Imia-Kardak rocks. Only U.S. and NATO intervention subsided the conflict. In February 1999, relations between Greek officials and Abdullah Öcalan (holding a Greek Cypriot passport) and the role of the Greek Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, where Öcalan was captured by agents of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) caused crisis in relations between the two countries for a period of time; but relations have since improved, particularly following the earthquakes that struck both countries in 1999. However, the Imia/Kardak issue sprang up again on a smaller scale in 2004.

In World War I, 1,500,000 Armenians were claimed to have been massacred by Ottoman forces or sent on death marches into the Syrian Desert which have widely become known as the Armenian Genocide. Most historians maintain that it was a deliberate and intentional attempt to exterminate the Ottoman Armenian population of eastern Anatolia by forcefully deporting them to the Syrian Desert. This view is also the position of the Armenian Republic. The Republic of Turkey insists that the deaths among the Armenians were a result of inter-ethnic strife, disease and famine during the turmoil of World War I, citing that the Armenian Dashnak and Henchak rebels had sided with the Russian Army which invaded eastern Anatolia during the war and committed massacres against the local Muslim population (Turks and Kurds) in that area. The border between Turkey and Armenia has been shut since 1993 due to the Nagorno-Karabakh War, in which Armenia occupied parts of western Azerbaijan, a Turkic state. Both this issue and the events of 1915-1917 remain large stumbling blocks on the way to re-opening the land border and restoring the short-lived diplomatic relations (1991-1993) between Turkey and Armenia.

The Republic of Cyprus was established by the 1959-60 Agreements between Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom as a partnership state between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. In 1963 violence erupted on the island following attempts to amend constitutional safeguards for Turkish Cypriots, leading to a separation of the two communities. A UN Peace-keeping Force (UNFICYP) was dispatched to the island in March 1964.

On 15 July 1974, the military Junta then ruling Greece staged a coup d'etat in Cyprus which was aimed at materializing Enosis-Union with Greece- through an armed takeover of the island. This led to Turkey’s military intervention under the Treaty of Guarantee. In the north of the island Turkish Cypriots established on 15 November 1983 the defacto Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Turkey.

A comprehensive peace plan negotiated with the full support of the international community was submitted to simultaneous but separate referenda in the North and South of Cyprus on 24 April 2004. While the Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the Annan Plan by casting 67% of their votes, the Greek Cypriots rejected the solution with a ‘No’ vote of 76%. Republic of Cyprus represented by Greek Cypriots acceded to the EU on May 1st, 2004. This in turn has led to tension with Turkey's own EU membership aspirations, with the Republic of Cyprus blocking eight chapters due to Turkey's refusal to open its ports to Greek Cypriot shipping. Turkey's position is that its ports will only be opened when the EU upholds its promise to end the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.

The conflict has had wider ramifications in the EU-NATO relationship, with Turkey - a NATO member - blocking Cyprus from participating in EU-NATO meetings, and reducing the scope of talks only those to operations on which the EU and NATO are acting together.

This article contains material from the CIA World Factbook which, as a U.S. government publication, is in the public domain.

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