What came out of the Obama-Erdoğan meeting?
HDN | 6/30/2010 12:00:00 AM | SEDAT ERGİN
In the end, the meeting showed that despite serious disagreements the parties couldn’t take the risk of harming Turkey-U.S. relations due to mutual interests.
President of the United States Barack Obama met Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the weekend in Canada. But in order to make an assessment on the consequences of this meeting I better underline the following fact:
The meeting took place Saturday evening. In fact, the day before U.S. Assistant State Secretary Philip Gordon made a statement to the Associated Press that was kind of a cold shower for Turkish public opinion.
[HH] What more Obama said, compared to Gordon
Gordon, reminding that questions have been asked about political shift in Turkey, said, "We think Turkey remains committed to NATO, Europe and the United States, but that needs to be demonstrated."
That was not an ordinary remark made in a hurry. It was a calculated move aiming to reflect the frame of the Obama-Erdoğan meeting and show at the same time that the American side is seriously disturbed by the latest developments.
Did Obama repeat to Erdoğan what Gordon said in his message?
According to the Americans, Obama adopted a similar but more general approach. Although he was not as tough as Gordon, Obama was very clear on Turkey’s “No” vote against sanctions on Iran in particular.
Considering statements issued by the Turkish side afterward, such as “Both parties have understood each other very well,” one can say that both Obama and Erdoğan did not hesitate to say whatever they were thinking.
[HH] Can Obama convince Netanyahu?
Another subject that disturbed Obama was Turkey-Israel relations. The U.S. President said they do not want to see Turkish-Israeli ties deteriorated but rather expect normalization.
Erdoğan, in return, asked for an apology from Israel, compensation for the families of the nine people who died in the Israeli raid and for the blockage on Gaza to be lifted. Obama supports Turkey’s demands. That doesn’t mean, however, a positive result can be obtained.
Obama will probably convey expectations of the Turkish side to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is to pay a visit to Washington soon. It is difficult to say how Netanyahu will react. I can only say that relations between the Obama administration and Israel are not perfect.
One of the most critical items also on the agenda was obviously the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
We see that the U.S. administration will take action regarding the PKK issue. It is also important that Erdoğan said a few steps are expected beyond sharing intelligence. In the days to come, with the cooperation of the Kurdish groups under Massoud Barzani in the Regional Kurdish Administration, there will be developments that will narrow the PKK’s ability to maneuver.
[HH] Controlled-relation structure
The meeting in the end showed that, despite serious disagreements, the parties couldn’t take the risk of harming Turkey-U.S. relations due to mutual interests.
The Obama administration has to cooperate with Turkey in many problematic regions of the world, starting with Iraq and Afghanistan.
For this reason, Washington prefers to stress differences of opinion in an environment of dialogue although they are offended by Erdoğan’s attitude toward Israel and Iran. Apparently, Obama’s naïve look on Erdoğan now is being replaced by a more realistic approach.
In the Ankara camp, we see that Erdoğan is not happy either with escalating tension lately. He doesn’t like to give an impression of a leader weakening in dialogue with Obama. Erdoğan now is taking steps more carefully and more controlled in order not to harm Turkey-U.S. relations any further.