Turkey, US should contain crisis through diplomacy

Turkey, US should contain crisis through diplomacy

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a highly anticipated and their first in-person meeting in Singapore on Aug. 3, two days after the latter announced sanctions on two Turkish ministers over serious human rights violations against imprisoned pastor Andrew Brunson.

The meeting came as Turkish-U.S. ties entered an era of sanctions, with some graver measures orchestrated by the U.S. Congress in the pipeline. U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign a bill on the Pentagon’s budget in the coming weeks, which includes an article that prevents the sale of the F-35 aircraft to Turkey.

Talks between Çavuşoğlu and Pompeo also came as there are speculations that the U.S. Treasury is about to accomplish its work before announcing the fine to be issued to Halkbank over the violation of Iran sanctions.

Both ministers made public statements after the meeting in Singapore, and one can underline three main points:

  • Pompeo described imposing sanctions on Turkey as the U.S. administration’s way of demonstrating its demand for the release of the pastor. Çavuşoğlu, in return, reiterated once again that the use of a threatening language or imposing sanctions will not work. So, both sides have publicly reaffirmed their positions vis-a-vis U.S. sanctions with one major difference: Çavuşoğlu did not mention Turkey’s retaliatory measures against the U.S. 
  • Second point on which both officials focused was the need to resolve bilateral problems through diplomacy. It should be emphasized that Çavuşoğlu’s address to the reconciliatory efforts was stronger than his counterpart’s. Yet it’s still very important that both men highlighted their joint will to resolve these problems through dialogue. 
  • Third important point was raised by Çavuşoğlu. He underlined the necessity to continue military-to-military cooperation in the fight against terrorism as well as in the implementation of the Manbij deal. As a matter of fact, the visit of U.S. European Commander Gen. Curtis Michael Scaparrotti to the Turkish capital last week where he discussed the situation in Iraq and Syria were very important messages. Plus, on the same day, Turkish and American troops conducted the 23rd joint patrol around the Manbij city of Syria, in a sign of the continuation of the deal. 

In light of the Aug. 3 meeting between the two foreign ministers, it could be said that both administrations would re-assess the situation and take steps accordingly. The foreign ministers and their ministries would play a crucial role in this process. A working group that has already been established with the task of resolving judicial and consular affairs would continue its work in the coming period under the direct supervision of the two ministers.

However, all these diplomatic efforts would be interrupted if parties would not prefer to contain this crisis and maintain damaging language. A greater portion of responsibility in keeping bilateral ties on track is on the shoulders of the U.S. leaders. The sanctions imposed on two ministers demonstrate how seriously they take the imprisonment of the pastor, but this trend should not continue with new measures.

Diplomacy is the best way to generate creative solutions to existing problems. Sanctions, however, will only deepen them by causing a vicious cycle to the benefit of neither side.

Serkan Demirtaş,