Sunday, 15 November 2009

Disagreements outweigh agreements in US-Turkish ties

Quite an interesting perspective, It is important to observe that Cyprus is not included among the issues on which there is dissagreement. Does that mean that there is agreement between Washington and Ankara on this? And what is this agreement on? The Turkish view on the solution? Intteresting food for thought.

CSTAS YENNARIS

SERKAN DEMİRTAŞ
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Sunday, November 15, 2009

The growing number of disagreements over global and regional affairs between Turkey and the United States signals a “bumpy road” to Washington, D.C., for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in early December.

The deterioration in ties between the two allies was obvious during Philip Gordon’s trip to Ankara last week. At a press conference held here, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs hinted that “there were more points of disagreement than of agreement with Turkey.”

As Gordon put it, the diplomatic agenda shared by the two NATO allies is “vast,” ranging from Iran’s nuclear program to the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement and from Sudan to energy-security projects. Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama will review all of these issues during their December meeting, Gordon said. The positions of the two countries on some important international issues can be summarized as follows:

Iran

Iran is the issue on which the two countries’ views differ most. Underestimating the concerns of the West over Iran’s controversial nuclear program, Erdoğan has argued that these concerns were just “gossip.” He also declared that as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, Turkey would not endorse potential sanctions against Iran.

In his very diplomatic answer on this topic, Gordon tried to emphasize that the two countries were still working on the issue and seeking ways to move forward. But, he said, in an indirect message to the Turkish leadership: “It’s not a good thing to make business at the moment with Iran. Iran needs to be assured that it has to cooperate with the international community; otherwise it will face consequences.”

Turkey and Iran signed multibillion-dollar energy agreements last week despite strong opposition from Washington. Gordon said Thursday that “Turkey’s engagement with its neighbors was neither surprising nor concerning,” but also noted Washington’s expectation that Turkey would share U.S. concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.

On the very recent idea of storing Iran’s enriched uranium in Turkey, Gordon said “it was a good one to explore,” adding that Turkey would be a safe and secure location for such a purpose.

Sudan

Although Turkey avoided a visit to Istanbul from indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir through a last-minute interruption, Erdoğan’s denial of Darfur atrocities by saying “a Muslim can never commit genocide” caused international reaction. When asked his thoughts on Erdoğan’s statement, Gordon, in another diplomatic twist, said, “We have been clear with what’s going on out there” and called on the international community to act together.

Karabakh pre-conditionality

It was the United States that most supported the reconciliation process between Turkey and Armenia. Reiterating Washington’s backing of the process, Gordon said: “We’d like to see the move forward for the ratification of the protocols and implementation... and the opening of the border.”

But for Gordon, Turkey’s move to put the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict before the ratification of the protocols is not correct. “We do not link the two issues,” he said. “Turkey and Armenia moving forward is a very positive development and should not be linked with anything else.”

Turkey-Israel

The cooling in ties between Turkey and Israel is another concern for the United States. “Americans watch closely Turkey’s relations with its neighbors,” Gordon said, adding that the U.S. believes that the Turkish government’s zero-problems-with-neighbors policy should also include Israel.

Energy security

Turkey’s recent deals with Russia, facilitating Moscow’s target of realizing the South Stream project to block the U.S.-backed Nabucco natural-gas pipeline, are seen with concern in the West.

Afghanistan

According to Gordon, the ideal example of Turkey-U.S. cooperation is seen in Afghanistan. “We value Turkey’s very positive contributions,” he said. “There are some issues [on which] we have disagreements, but in Afghanistan we have similar points. It is a global area [where] we are working very closely.” When asked about troop contributions from Turkey, however, Gordon said, “All countries should do more with regard to Afghanistan.”

Changing axis

Gordon said the current debate about whether or not Turkey’s axis has been changing from West to East is an “exaggeration.” Adding that Turkey still has significant relations with the West, he said, “We’re not always saying same things, but that’s why we have an open dialogue with our Turkish friends.”

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