US gives assurance on Iraq after withdrawal
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
US Vice President Joe Biden is flanked by army officers during a wreath laying ceremony at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Ankara on Dec 2. AA photoWashington will ensure that no power vacuum that could be exploited by Kurdish militants emerges in northern Iraq after U.S. troops withdraw from Turkey’s southern neighbor, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has told officials in Ankara.
The United States is aware of Turkey’s sensitivities on the issue, Biden said during a Dec. 2 meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gül, adding that Washington wanted to work closer with Ankara and do its best in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey and the United States will “continue in a strong way” in the fight against the PKK, Gül told reporters following his meeting with Biden.
“We discussed terrorism in detail in our meeting,” Gül said, adding that they debated Iraq’s situation after the U.S. totally withdraws in 2012. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
Biden arrived in Ankara on Dec. 1, directly from an Iraqi visit, for talks on the situation there as U.S. troops prepare to leave.
Citing the PKK attacks both in urban and rural areas, Gül said Turkey had taken and would take necessary steps, including cross-border operations into Iraq, diplomatic sources said.
The vice president said the deteriorating relations between Turkey and Israel restricted the U.S. administration’s room to maneuver, sources said, adding that Biden also discussed the need to normalize relations between the two countries.
Turkey seeks to buy Predators from the U.S. to use in combat against the PKK. The request, however, has been controversial with some members of the Congress refusing to sell the aircraft to Turkey given Ankara’s strained relations with Israel.
The U.S. has also urged Israel to normalize relations with Ankara, Biden said, adding that better relations between Turkey and Israel would make his administration’s work easier.
“It’s not Turkey who took the issue to this point. It’s obvious what Israel shall do in order to resolve the problem; they should apologize to normalize relations,” Gül told Biden, according to sources. Turkey has long demanded that Israel apologize for killing nine Turks in an ill-fated aid flotilla to Gaza last year.
Increasing pressure from Washington on Tehran was also part of the discussion in Ankara, according to sources. The U.S. intends to impose further sanctions on Iran, Biden said, adding that Tehran was creating instability in the region.
The vice president, however, did not openly urge Turkey to implement new sanctions on Iran; Gül, meanwhile, simply lent an ear to Biden’s remarks, sources said.
Biden further urged Ankara to speed up its normalization process with Armenia so that the U.S administration could prevent upcoming acts in Congress regarding Armenian genocide allegations.
Gül also asked Biden for further U.S. involvement on the issue of Cypriot reunification talks before Greek Cyprus takes over the term presidency of the European Union in 2012.
In the early morning Biden also met with Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek, who briefed him in detail on the parliamentary drive to draft a new constitution for Turkey, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.
Biden praised the efforts. Referring to the Arab Spring, he said Turkey’s constitution-making process was important for promoting democracy in the Middle East and could provide an example for all regional countries.
Biden, a lawyer by profession like Çiçek, said drafting a constitution from scratch was a rare experience and told Çiçek that he was lucky to lead such a significant mission, sources said.
Earlier in the day, Biden visited Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustfa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic. The U.S. vice president signed the guestbook, saying, “As people around the world today strive for a greater voice in how they are governed, they can take inspiration from Atatürk’s emphasis on the principles of democracy in Turkey’s own development.”
Meanwhile, an anti-terror high council also gathered in Ankara Dec. 2.