Ricciardone’s story and Biden’s visit

Ricciardone’s story and Biden’s visit

TOLGA TANIŞ - ttanis@hurriyet.com.tr
Aren’t you also fed up by the determination of American and Turkish officials to avoid publicly reflecting tension, at a time when the biggest tension in Turkey-U.S. relations in recent memory is going on over the Syrian issue?

They are acting as if there is no problem. U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden openly says the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levent (ISIL) emerged because of allies like Turkey, then apologizes, then says he did not apologize, then, in the end, accuses journalists of fabricating statements. Are you not fed up by this too?

I’m not saying this just because of Biden’s meeting in Istanbul this weekend. I had a similar experience with the former U.S. ambassador to Ankara, Francis Ricciardone, this week. I then understood that this rose-colored image was not limited to the administration only.

Biden’s Istanbul contacts are under a protocol, and 60-year-old allies naturally must reflect a positive image to third parties. But accusing journalists each and every time is, I think, too much.

The Ricciardone matter started with my story in daily Hürriyet titled, “Stress at home, stress in the world,” dated Nov. 14, 2014. Ricciardone had spoken at a panel held at the Turkish Embassy in Washington on Nov. 12. The former ambassador highlighted the need for cooperation between the two allies. He talked about the problems that Syria has created in the relationship, saying there are some dissimilar viewpoints. He said the Syrian crisis might put the two countries at odds, while at the same time he encouraged Turks and Americans to cooperate.

I wrote to him and he said “Stress at home, stress in the world,” referring to Atatürk’s words. He added that stressful times are a test of friendship. I reported the important parts of his speech. Anyone with doubts can go to YouTube and listen to it.

Then problems erupted when daily Sabah wrote that his words had been distorted by Hürriyet. I asked Ricciardone whether the story in Sabah was true and whether he believed that I had distorted his words. I cannot publish his answer because I did not ask him for permission to do so, but in short he did not deny Hürriyet’s story. I am not going to go into his comments about Sabah, but if I had claimed in my story that Ricciardone was accusing the Turkish government with his words on Nov. 12, he is reported to have said, “These are the American friends of Turkey [present at the panel] in the Turkish Embassy with the Turkish Ambassador present; do you think I would insult Turkey?”

This is not the first and probably will not be the last time something like this will happen, when you come to think that three weeks ago Biden did the same thing. In his interview with CNN, he denied official statements that he had apologized to Erdoğan saying, “I never apologized to him.” He accused the journalist again, saying that he called him and said, “Look, what was reported was not accurate to what I said.”

Well, when I read the former ambassador’s words in Sabah, I realized once again the kind of risk that I had taken by first reporting Biden’s speech at Harvard on Oct. 2. As I said, are you not fed up too?