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language: Turkish President: Abdullah Gul
Republic of Turkey
Turkey is one of
the few countries in the world that is
self-sufficient in terms of food. The country's
fertile soil, access to sufficient water, a
suitable climate, and hard-working farmers, all
make for a successful agricultural sector. In
addition, a broad range of crops can be raised
because of the variety of different climates
throughout the land. This has allowed Turkey to
become the largest producer and exporter of
agricultural products in the Near East and North
African regions. In fact, according to The
Economist 's world rankings, Turkey is one of
the top 10 producers of fruit, wheat, and cotton
in the world. More impressively, it ranks among
the top 5 producers of vegetables, tea, and raw
wool. As a result of this massive production
base, Turkey enjoys a comparative advantage in
many agricultural products, and a positive trade
balance in agriculture that contributes
significant relief to an overall trade deficit .
The country's main export markets are the EU and
the United States, to which Turkey exports dried
fruit and nuts, cotton, and tobacco. Another
major export market is the Middle East, which
buys fresh fruit, vegetables, and meats from
Turkey. By 1999, the value of agricultural
exports had risen to US$2.4 billion and
accounted for 9 percent of Turkey's export
earnings (down from 60 percent in 1980).
However, these figures could be misleading
insofar as almost 50 percent of the manufactured
exports also originate in the agricultural
sector (primarily textiles and clothing).
Therefore, the agricultural sector's direct and
indirect total contribution would still account
for 50 percent of total exports. Of Turkey's
agricultural sector, crops account for 55
percent of the gross value, livestock represents
34 percent, and forestry and fishing make up the
Once the centre of the Ottoman Empire, the modern secular republic was established in the 1920s by nationalist leader Kemal Ataturk.
Straddling the continents of Europe and Asia, Turkey's strategically important location has given it major influence in the region - and control over the entrance to the Black Sea.
Turkey's progress towards democracy and a market economy was halting in the decades following the death of President Ataturk in 1938. The army saw itself as the guarantor of the constitution, and ousted governments on a number of occasions when it thought they were challenging secular values.
Efforts to reduce state control over the economy also faced many obstacles. After years of mounting difficulties which brought the country close to economic collapse, a tough recovery programme was agreed with the IMF in 2002. Since then, Turkey has seen strong economic growth and a dramatic fall in inflation. However, huge foreign debt and unemployment remain major burdens.
Turkey must meet strict conditions for EU membership
Turkey's powerful military - which sees itself as the guardian of the secular system - has a long history of involvement in politics.
In recent years, as Ankara has set its sights firmly on European Union membership, the profile of the military has been lower in public life. Secularists concerned about the intentions of the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party government since 2002 have increasingly turned to the courts.
In March 2008 the Constitutional Court only narrowly rejected a petition by the chief prosecutor to ban the Justice and Development Party and 71 of its officials, including President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for allegedly seeking to establish an Islamic state.
Turkey has long been at odds with its close neighbour, Greece, over territorial disputes in the Aegean and the divided island of Cyprus.
It became an EU candidate country in 1999 and, in line with EU requirements, went on to introduce substantial human rights and economic reforms. The death penalty was abolished, tougher measures were brought in against torture and the penal code was overhauled.
Reforms were introduced in the areas of women's rights and Kurdish culture, language, education and broadcasting. Women's rights activists have said the reforms do not go far enough and have accused the government of lacking full commitment to equality and acting only under EU pressure.
After intense bargaining, EU membership talks were launched in October 2005. Accession negotiations are expected to take about 10 years. So far, the going has not been easy.
The breakthrough came just weeks after Turkey agreed to recognise Cyprus as an EU member, in spite of unfavourable comment over its declaration that this was not tantamount to full diplomatic recognition.
Turkey is home to a sizeable Kurdish minority, which by some estimates constitutes up to a fifth of the population. However, they complain that the government has tried to destroy their Kurdish identity and that they suffer from economic disadvantage and human rights violations.
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the best known and most radical of the Kurdish movements, launched a guerrilla campaign in 1984 for an ethnic homeland in the Kurdish heartland in the southeast. Thousands died and hundreds of thousands became refugees in the ensuing conflict with the PKK, which Turkey, the US and the European Union deem a terrorist organisation.
The past few years have seen an upsurge in attacks, which had subsided after the 1999 capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. The government launched its "Kurdish initiative" in 2009, in an effort to mollify Kurdish opinion by extending linguistic and cultural rights. The Ataturkist opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) indicated that it would support these measures in the hope of ending support for separatist attacks.
Abdullah Gul was chosen as president by parliament in August 2007, after months of controversy over his nomination. He is Turkey's first head of state with a background in political Islam in a country with strong secularist principles.
The months leading to his eventual election saw street demonstrations, an opposition boycott of parliament, early parliamentary elections and warnings from the army, which has ousted four governments since 1960.
Turkish secularists, including army generals, opposed Gul's nomination, fearing he would try to undermine Turkey's strict separation of state and religion. Secularists also did not want Turkey's First Lady to wear the Muslim headscarf.
The army top brass and the main opposition Republican People's Party, stayed away from Mr Gul's swearing-in ceremony.
Mr Gul started in politics in an Islamist party that was banned by the courts, but later renounced the idea that Islam should be a driving force in politics. In 2001, along with other moderate members of the Islamist movement, he founded the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and distanced himself from his past political leanings.
The party won elections in 2002 and Mr Gul served as stand-in prime minister before stepping aside for Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr Gul served as foreign minister under Mr Erdogan and cultivated an image as a moderate politician, acting as an impassioned voice for reforms to promote Turkey's EU bid.
The government holds most power but the president can veto laws, appoint officials, and name judges. Voters in a referendum in October 2007 backed plans to have future presidents elected by the people instead of by parliament.
Prime minister: Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Tayyip Erdogan, who became premier in March 2003, led his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to victory in the July 2007 elections.
Prime Minister Erdogan has set his sights on EU entry
Erdogan called the poll early after the army-backed secular elite blocked his choice of an ex-Islamist ally as the next president.
The AK Party boosted its share of the vote in the 2007 parliamentary elections to 47% despite opposition efforts to portray his pro-business party, which has Islamist roots, as a Trojan horse set to turn Turkey into an Iran-style theocracy.
Mr Erdogan's governments have continued reforms and the modernisation of the country if anything faster and more effectively than most of their predecessors.
Mr Erdogan first became prime minister several months after his party's landslide election victory in November 2002.
He had been barred from standing in the poll because of a previous criminal conviction for reading an Islamist poem at a political rally. Changes to the constitution paved the way for him to run for parliament in 2003.
He identified EU entry as a top priority and introduced reforms which paved the way for the opening of membership talks in October 2005.
Although the AK has Islamist roots, he insists that it is committed to a secular state. From a lowly background, Mr Erdogan worked as a street seller to help pay for an education. He attended Koranic school before studying economics at university.
As mayor of Istanbul in the mid 1990s he banned alcohol in municipal buildings and won popularity for improving services.
Turkey's airwaves are lively, with some 300 private TV stations - more than a dozen of them with national coverage - and more than 1,000 private radio stations competing with the state broadcaster, TRT.
Powerful businesses operate many of the press and broadcasting outlets; they include the Dogan group, the leading media conglomerate.
For journalists, the military, Kurds and political Islam are highly-sensitive topics, coverage of which can lead to arrest and prosecution. Rights groups say journalists have been imprisoned, or attacked by police. It is also common for radio and TV stations to have their broadcasts suspended for airing sensitive material.
Some of the most repressive sanctions have been lifted as part of reforms intended to pave the way for EU entry. But under Article 301 of the penal code, it remains a crime to insult the Turkish nation.
TRT introduced broadcasts in Kurdish, banned for many years, in 2004 as a part of reforms intended to meet EU criteria on minorities. Kurdish-language TRT 6 TV launched in 2009. Some overseas-based Kurdish TVs broadcast via satellite.
Around 26.5 million Turks were online by March 2008 (Internetworldstats). Internet sites have been subject to blocking. They include video-sharing service YouTube, which was banned over videos deemed to be insulting to the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk.
Hurriyet - mass-circulation daily, English-language web pages