Wednesday, July 29, 2009

One Day in Prinkipo

Dear Colleagues,

Your writer is in Prinkipo. Our family clan is planning to meet at Hagia Yorgi peak on Sunday. Hagia Yorgi peak is the highest point in Prinkipo island, 202 meters above sea level. It is on the second hill. The monastery is built in 19th century on top of remains a holy ruin back from 10th century. It is a holy place for all religions.

There is a ritual to climb and you should strictly follow the centuries old rules. It is 970 meters from the starting point in lower end, the merry-go-round square. Once there was a merry-go-round fun place in the 19th century, which was demolished long ago but the name still stays.

You should start with a certain pace, slow but non-stop. You should not speak, nor talk to anyone. All your failures, despair, missery, are left behind. All your failures, despair, misery, are left behind. Hope, success, happiness are at your front. Do note that future is shaped by expectations. So pray for the best.

It is 1700 steps for me from the starting point till the main gate of the monastery. It takes 15-17 minutes to climb. When you reach the upper point, take your time, change your t-shirt, bring towel and bottled water with you.

Enjoy the view, Sea of Marmara, sunrise in the morning or sunset in the evening. Light a candle in the monastery and pray to realize all your wishes. In the end you will feel relieved, comfortable, free from all your worries, family matters, global warming, financial crunch etc.

Have some time, ask tea or Turkish coffee in the nearby cafe. You may also have country lunch, green salad and kebab with young red dry local wine, or local beer. While going back, you will feel refreshed and wish to come back.

It is daily routine for me when I stay in Prinkipo close to Hristos Monastery from early May to mid- November.

Almost every morning, at the town center you will see your humble blog writer with undercover local fisherman appearence with some thick beard in High Café (Yuksek Kahve) reading his daily local newspaper Cumhuriyet while sipping Turkish coffee with no sugar... Occasionally he may be seen as trying to type a few lines for this blog on his laptop PC.

There are so many hidden and not-so hidden gems in and around Istanbul, away from the usual path. And the pureness, innocence, and beauty of the Prince Islands is definitely a gem for all Istanbulians and tourists to enjoy...

Haluk Direskeneli, Prinkipo based Energy Analyst

Friday, July 24, 2009

Turkish foreign policy - Dreams from their fathers- Economist

Jul 23rd 2009, ANKARA - Turkey’s canny foreign minister seeks to pursue delicate diplomacy all around

WHEN the official result of Iran’s contested presidential election was announced last month, Turkey was one of the first countries to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Set against the repression (and deaths) of Iranian protesters in the streets, this raised eyebrows in Europe and America. It even provoked the tired old question of whether Turkey may be turning its back on the West.

“People see only one side of this story,” complains Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, in an interview. He does not elaborate. But Turkey’s friendship with the Islamic republic has also proved useful to the West. Its behind-the-scenes mediation was instrumental in securing the recent release of British embassy staff in Tehran. And it can play both ways. Five Iranian diplomats detained by the Americans in Iraq in 2007 were freed earlier this month at Turkey’s urging.

The ease with which Turkey juggles different worlds, be they Arab or Jewish, Muslim or European, prompted Hillary Clinton to call it an “emerging global power”. Its strong relations with Israel matter to both countries, as became clear when they cooled during the invasion of Gaza in January. The Turks have just had a high-profile spat with China over its treatment of Xinjiang’s Uighurs, whom they regard as kinsmen. It was understandable that one of Barack Obama’s first presidential visits to a foreign country was to Turkey.

Some credit is due to Mr Davutoglu, who was a foreign-policy adviser to the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for seven years before becoming foreign minister in May. This spry former academic is seen as the architect of Turkey’s soft power, which blends realpolitik with a fierce pride. A pious Muslim with a moralistic bent, Mr Davutoglu has been among the most influential foreign ministers in the history of the Turkish republic.

His approach rests on two pillars. One is to have “zero problems” with the neighbours, many of them troubled or troublesome. The other is “strategic depth”. This calls for a Turkish zone of political, economic and cultural influence, primarily among neighbours (many of them former Ottoman dominions) in the Balkans, the south Caucasus and the Middle East.

None of this detracts from Turkey’s determination to join the European Union. Rather, it enhances its appeal as a member, says Mr Davutoglu. He seems unfazed by the hostile noises from France and Germany. Both Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel are lobbying for a “privileged partnership” instead of full membership for Turkey. Mr Davutoglu suggests that they are merely playing to their respective electorates. “Instead of complaining, of being angry, we should work together,” he says. For Turkey that means reviving the flagging reform process that won it the opening of EU membership talks in 2005. Mr Davutoglu is hopeful, for example, that the Greek Orthodox seminary on the island of Halki off Istanbul will soon be reopened.

But EU diplomats say none of this will let Turkey off the hook over Cyprus. Mr Davutoglu agrees that decades-old peace talks between Turkish- and Greek-Cypriot leaders should not be open-ended. A deal really needs to be struck by the end of this year. For that to happen the EU and America must tell the Greek-Cypriots to get serious (though, as EU members already, they have little incentive to help). A settlement would avert the possible train wreck in Turkey’s relations with the EU that might otherwise come in December. In theory Turkey has until then to open air- and seaports to the Greek-Cypriots, but it refuses to do this until EU trade restrictions on Turkish-controlled north Cyprus are lifted.

Might France and Turkey’s other enemies use this as an excuse to freeze the EU membership talks altogether (eight chapters have already been suspended)? Turkish leaders like to believe that Europe needs Turkey more than Turkey needs Europe. It has become even more crucial as a potential transit route for Europe-bound natural gas from energy-rich Azerbaijan and Central Asia, as well as from Iraq (and eventually Iran). Mr Davutoglu points proudly to the recent signing of an agreement between Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria on the Nabucco pipeline that is meant to carry gas through these countries, reducing Europe’s dependence on Russia.

Yet some say that Turkey is overplaying its hand. Its energy dreams are tightly linked to its ethnic cousins in Azerbaijan. Relations between these Turkic allies took a dive in April when Turkey unveiled a draft agreement to establish diplomatic ties and reopen its border with Armenia. In a dramatic shift, Turkey even dropped its long-running precondition that Armenia must withdraw from the territories that it occupied in the 1990s after its war with Azerbaijan over the mainly Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

An infuriated Azerbaijan promptly threatened to turn to Russia. In June it signed a deal to sell gas to the Russians from 2010 onwards. So Turkey did another volte-face. Mr Erdogan declared that friendship with Armenia was no longer possible unless it withdrew from Nagorno-Karabakh. Mr Davutoglu insists that Turkey wants peace with Armenia. But one Western diplomat says that “rapprochement with Armenia is on its last legs.”

This has raised the spectre of a row with Turkey’s most powerful ally, America. Armenian-Americans want Mr Obama to honour his election pledge to insist that the massacre by Ottoman forces of more than a million of their ancestors in 1915 was genocide. In a fudge in April Mr Obama said that he had not changed his views on the matter; yet he spoke only of the Medz Yeghern (“great calamity” in Armenian). He did not want to torpedo Turkish-Armenian rapprochement by using the G-word.

Turkey’s strategic location had once again proven decisive. As American forces withdraw from Iraq, Turkey is seeking to avert a looming conflict between the Arabs and the Kurds, especially over the disputed city of Kirkuk. Turkey urged Iraq’s Sunnis not to boycott elections in 2005. Mr Davutoglu is again lobbying to ensure that all Iraqi groups take part in the parliamentary election in January 2010. “We have excellent relations with the United States at every level,” he says. And, notes a Western official, “when it comes to Turkey and Armenia, Turkey wins every time.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cinema: Last Chance Harvey - Heartfelt romance- Independent

Cinema: Last Chance Harvey - Heartfelt romance

Academy Award winners Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man) and Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility) reunite in Last Chance Harvey, a heartfelt romance that celebrates new beginnings—at any age. The film is written and directed by Joel Hopkins (Jump Tomorrow).

The supporting cast includes Dame Eileen Atkins (Cold Mountain, Gosford Park), Liane Balaban (Definitely Maybe, Happy Here and Now), James Brolin, (Traffic, Catch Me If You Can), Kathy Baker (The Jane Austen Book Club, Edward Scissorhands) and Richard Schiff (The West Wing). John de Borman (Serendipity, The Full Monty) is director of photography, with Jon Henson (The Wind In The Willows, I Could Never Be Your Woman) as production designer, Natalie Ward (Death At A Funeral, Breaking And Entering) as costume designer, and Marilyn Macdonald (The Bourne Ultimatum, The Good Shepherd) as make-up and hair designer. Producers are Tim Perell and Nicola Usborne. Jawal Nga is executive producer.

New Yorker Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) is on the verge of losing his dead-end job as a jingle writer. Warned by his boss (Richard Schiff) that he has just one more chance to deliver, Harvey goes to London for a weekend to attend his daughter’s (Liane Balaban) wedding but promises to be back on Monday morning to make an important meeting – or else.

Harvey arrives in London only to learn his daughter has chosen to have her stepfather (James Brolin) walk her down the aisle. Trying to hide his devastation, Harvey leaves the wedding before the reception in hopes of getting to the airport on time, but misses the plane anyway. When he calls his boss to explain, Harvey is fired on the spot.

Drowning his sorrows at the airport bar, Harvey strikes up a conversation with Kate (Emma Thompson), a sensitive, 40-something employee of the Office of National Statistics. Kate, whose life is limited to work, the occasional humiliating blind date and endless phone calls from her smothering mother (Eileen Atkins), is touched by Harvey, who finds himself energised by her intelligence and compassion.

The growing connection between the pair inspires both as they unexpectedly transform one another’s lives.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nabucco in Ankara Opera House

Dear Colleagues, Dear Energy Professional, Dear Sir/ Madame;

I am very happy that the Nabucco pipeline agreement is already signed on 13th July 2009 in Ankara. It is for sure that if there is demand for any product, there is always supply to satisfy that demand.

Although we have some doubts to get gas to fill in the pipeline, we witness that the countries are making statements to supply.

Today they are Iraq, Turkmenistan; tomorrow we shall see Azerbaijan, Egypt to join.

If Syria can generate we can see her to join the upstream supplier countries, as long as gas is so expensive in Europe. That is because Russia artificially pushes the gas prices up.

What I wished to see was the State Opera House performance of Nabucco Opera. A simple CD playing in Hotel Lobby was miserable. That was not a good show.

We need meeting rooms with high ceilings as in Palaces. There are similar facilities suitable for such important occasions. An Ankara commercial hotel room with low ceiling was not appropriate for such a great ceremony.

It would be extraordinary opportunity to show world that Ankara Opera House is no different than Wien Opera House and our opera singers, chorus, the orchestra all are no less match. In future, Ankara State Opera House should be ready for such performance by all means, by having all self sacrifice from summer holiday.

All my life I wished to see world famous Opera houses, and after 35+ professional works, I had the opportunity to see most of the reputable ones. I am sure that Ankara Opera House is small, humble but one of the best in quality. Nabucco pipeline agreement ceremony was a great opportunity to prove her extraordinary artistic value.

That was a missed opportunity. However in future we should not miss that opportunity.

For each milestone of the Nabucco pipeline project execution, We should have Opera performance to prove that Turkey is a great country, I am sure Turkey is

Your comments are always welcome

Haluk Direskeneli, Ankara based Energy Analyst