Washington that honest for the first time
It is the first time I see them talking so honestly. I’ll share my impressions from the talks I had in Washington and explain how relations are deteriorating.
They are now openly saying they do not want a no-fly zone in Syria. As a result, no one is expecting Turkey to open its bases against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Obviously, they are not admitting a change in their policy of “Bashar al-Assad should go.” Yet, they do not refrain from saying this is no longer a priority for them. They insist the real issue is ISIL. Still there is a glimmer of hope. Washington thinks the ISIL related attack on Jan. 6 in Sultanahmet a day before the attack on Charlie Hebdo might change Turkey’s perception of the threat. And they confess this. They say Turkey was not at the point of accepting ISIL as the real threat even during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Turkey in November.
There are talks with the Turkish commander of land forces Hulusi Akar in Washington this week. There are no concrete expectations; just a protocol visit, because the perceptions of the threat are different.
Following the Paris attack, it was decided to hold a conference on Feb. 18 in Washington on the struggle against violent radicalism. Invitations have not been issued yet. Interior ministers will probably be invited. One cannot expect Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala to not to open the subject of Fettulah Gülen. But Americans are saying Turks are not opening this issue since the talks at the U.N. last September. The Gülen issue was not on the meeting points in Biden’s talks with Erdoğan last November in Istanbul.
The Americans are saying that as Turks are not opening the subject, this issue does not affect bilateral ties. But they can foresee that U.S. can be a subject of conspiracy theories among Turks because of Gülen, just like the debates on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the early 1990’s.
A headline story of a newspaper in Turkey showing a PKK member using an American made weapon, implying it proves U.S. support to the PKK is still vivid in U.S. memory. They think they can face similar accusations because of the Gülen issue. But they do not see the Gülen Movement as a terrorist organization and they say it openly.
The ball is in the hands of the president whether to call the 1915 events “genocide.” Following the proposal to make a statement by the administration for assassinated journalist Hrant Dink, it was decided to have an article by U.S. envoy John Bass be published in Hürriyet Daily News. The real decision will be made by Obama before April 24. More important, no one from Washington will go to the ceremony organized by the Turkish government on April 24 for the centenary of the Gallipoli wars.
Instead they made it public clearly that a delegation will be sent to the genocide memorial organized in Yerevan on the same day.
No one knows how relations will get back on track. No one can foresee it. No one should pretend otherwise, this is called a black winter.