Turmoil brings Turkey one-way US diplomacy

Turmoil brings Turkey one-way US diplomacy

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turmoil brings Turkey one-way US diplomacy

President Gül (C) and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu (R) chat with US Secretary of State Clinton prior to their meeting in Istanbul. EPA photo

The number of senior U.S. officials visiting Turkey has dramatically increased recently, likely due to turmoil in the Middle East, notably including the Syrian crisis, Ankara’s fight against terrorism, Iran, and the NATO anti-missile radar system housed in Turkey.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey will visit Turkey over the weekend to discuss Syria. The top general said in late August that any broader activities inside Syria would have to be discussed and conducted within the NATO framework. Dempsey’s visit comes after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the United States “lacked initiative” on Syria and suggested that could be because of the upcoming U.S. election.

“Right now, there are certain things expected of the United States. It has not yet catered to those expectations,” Erdoğan said in a recent interview on CNN International.

Seeking backing from the international community, and particularly from the United Nations, for safety zones and eventual no-fly zones inside Syrian territory, Turkey voiced its disappointment over the lack of action at the latest meeting of the UN Security Council. Ankara is also seeking international aid to cope with the rapidly increasing number of Syrians fleeing violence in their country.

Top U.S. spy chief David Petraeus’ unscheduled visit to talk with his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan in Istanbul earlier this month can also be evaluated in light of these developments. The pair discussed the Syrian crisis and the country’s possible transition process.

Petraeus’ surprise meeting followed the visit of a U.S. delegation in late August for an “operational planning” meeting to discuss aid options for fleeing Syrians with a Turkish delegation including military and intelligence officials.

Before the delegations met, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Turkey in August, two months after attending a meeting on terrorism in Turkey. On her August visit Clinton said the U.S. is committed to keeping Syria from becoming a haven for outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants. The parties also agreed to further strengthen their coordination on Syria.

U.S. Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman also recently showed up in Istanbul for a reported “fact-finding mission” on Syria on behalf of Mitt Romney.

Ankara reiterated its position on the implementation of sanctions aimed at convincing Tehran to address concerns about its nuclear program when U.S. Department of the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David S. Cohen, visited Turkey regarding sanctions against Iran earlier this month.

The U.S. State Department’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs, Carlos Pascual, also visited Turkey earlier this month for am meeting in which Turkish and U.S. officials shared their concerns over the ongoing dispute between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and agreed that the dispute should be resolved through “dialogue and in line with the Iraqi Constitution.”

In the next few days, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns will travel to Turkey as part of a visit to the regional that also includes Jordan and Iraq. According to U.S. officials, Burns will engage with leaders on a broad cross-section of strategic and regional issues. Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration Assistant Secretary Anne C. Richard will also visit Turkey Sept. 10-15, to hold talks in Istanbul, Ankara and Adana.

This intense series of visits over the past 40 days would seem to indicate that the current tensions in the Middle East have increased the level of cooperation between Washington and Ankara. Erdoğan’s upcoming visit to New York in the second half of September for a UN General Assembly meeting, at which the Syrian crisis and Iran’s controversial nuclear program will top the agenda, may also be considered as part of this convergence. The placement of NATO’s early warning radar system in Turkey should be also considered an integral part of this cooperation.

Top US commander set to visit Turkey

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey is expected to pay a visit to Turkey on Sept. 16, NTV reported yesterday. Syria will be top of the agenda at his meetings.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns is also currently on a series of visits in the region that will finish on Sept. 15, taking in Amman in Jordan, Baghdad, and Arbil, followed by Ankara. Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne C. Richard will travel to Istanbul, Adana, and Ankara, Turkey from Sept. 10-15.

In Istanbul, Richard will consult with the Resettlement Support Center, which processes refugee referrals for resettlement to the United States. She will also attend a cultural orientation for refugees who have been accepted for resettlement in the U.S. During her visit to Adana she will be joined by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, Nancy Lindborg. They will focus on the response to the humanitarian crisis emanating from the escalating violence in Syria and then travel on to Ankara.