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SEDAT ERGİN

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SEDAT ERGİN > Breakdown of Kerry’s visit

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Istanbul the other day has revealed that Turkish-American relations, after the indefinite time experienced recently, are warming again, that the two countries are entering a close solidarity and cooperation process in files such as Syria and Iraq, relations with Israel and the Palestine issue.

The visit in which Kerry met Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu can be evaluated under these chapters:

- Spring air in relations: Bilateral relations, both because of Ankara’s tension in relations with Israel and also because of significant differences in attitudes before Iraq and Syria, have been experiencing troubles for some time. So much so that Erdoğan’s request to visit Washington last fall was not answered positively for about five months. Kerry’s visit demonstrates that this period is over now and that a warm air is spreading toward Erdoğan’s White House visit on May 16. In Kerry’s statements, references to “Turkey’s achievements ” and how it navigates with surprising speed, also the choice of high-praise tones as “the best” of diplomacy and leadership in admiration of the prime minister’s and foreign minister’s efforts in the PKK’s laying down of arms point to the extent of this warmness.

- Moderation in enthusiasm: One of the most important targets of the trip from Kerry’s point of view was the focus on swift recovery in Turkey-Israeli relations after the “apology.” Kerry wanted both sides to refrain from attitudes that might disrupt normalization. Kerry brought this subject up with Davutoğlu obviously because of the complaints Israel has especially directed to the American side. Apparently, the American side also agrees that after the apology the extent of jubilation experienced in Ankara was extreme, and Kerry is concerned that this situation may damage the recovery process in Turkish-Israeli relations.

- Persuade Mashaal: Kerry believes Ankara may have significant contributions to the Middle East peace process. However, the prioritized expectation within this context is to pull Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to a moderate line. In this regard, he needs to be persuaded to reject violence and recognize Israel. Besides, it is not a secret that the American side asked for a postponement of Erdoğan’s planned visit to Gaza later this month on grounds that it may shadow the normalization of Turkey-Israel relations. The fact that the Turkish side has produced signs before Kerry’s visit that the Gaza trip may be rescheduled to after Erdoğan’s White House visit shows that this obstacle has been overcome.

- The U.S. is after reconciliation between al-Maliki and Ankara: The American administration has been trying to dissuade Ankara from bilateral cooperation projects in the energy field with the Federate Kurdish Administration in North Iraq. Washington is concerned that Kurds acting independently of the central government in exporting oil will jeopardize Iraq’s territorial integrity. At this stage, it is understood that the Obama Administration, just like the Israeli file, is conducting intense diplomacy to eliminate the standoff between Iraqi Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Ankara.

- A bloodless solution in Syria: Kerry said for the transition to the future from the Bashar al-Assad regime, first and foremost, “the climate has to be created.” It was important that Kerry emphasized that this transition should be “peaceful and fast” and should “contain the minimum possible violence.” This emphasis shows that the American side prioritizes a government change through political talks rather than military measures in Syria. Also, Kerry’s highlighting that the solution found should “bring out a pluralist democratic structure” is the expression of the search of the U.S. for a solution in Syria where all religious and ethnic identities are secured rather than a mono-structured Sunni administration.

Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet, in which this piece was published on April 9. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

April/10/2013

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