Chuck Hagel postpones visit to Turkey

Chuck Hagel postpones visit to Turkey

Chuck Hagel postpones visit to Turkey

In this Dec. 19, 2013 file photo, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel takes questions as he briefs reporters at the Pentagon in Washington. AP Photo

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has postponed a scheduled trip to Turkey without clarifying the reason, but expressed his hope to visit Turkey soon.

 Hagel was expected to pay a visit to Turkey on Jan. 27 as part of his European tour.

“Secretary Hagel hopes to visit Turkey soon and we continue to look for opportunities,” U.S. diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News, but declined to give a specific reason for the postponement.

Had the scheduled meeting happened, Hagel’s visit would have been the highest-level encounter between the two countries since Turkey was shaken by a massive internal political earthquake that also impacted Washington-Ankara relations. Turkey’s decision to purchase a Chinese anti-ballistic missile defense system and the danger posed by al-Qaeda in Syria were expected to dominate Hagel’s meetings with his Turkish interlocutors.

 Seriously concerned about Turkey’s decision to acquire such a system from a non-NATO country, Washington has been consistently conveying its messages on the issue in recent months through high-level officials from the Department of Defense.

The other important topic would have been Syria and concerns on the growing numbers of radical Islamists in the region, as the Iraqi-Syrian border area has become a new shelter for al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The U.S. has already voiced its readiness to help the Iraqi government in its fight against these groups while Turkey has expressed its concerns in the wake of recent developments with its neighbor.