US officials prepare for Ankara visits

US officials prepare for Ankara visits

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
US officials prepare for Ankara visits

Victoria Nuland, US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, is expected to visit Ankara for talks with Turkish officials soon. AFP photo

Turkey and the United States are intensifying political dialogue as bilateral visits between the capitals gain momentum.

A delegation from the U.S. Department of Defense will conduct official talks in Ankara, while Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs in the U.S., and a top U.S. security official are set to hold talks with Turkish officials as they are expected to arrive in Turkey today.

“Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Jim Miller is visiting Turkey for bilateral consultations on regional security issues, including Syria; the U.S.-Turkish bilateral defense relationship; and our partnership in NATO,” a U.S. embassy official in Ankara told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Relations between the U.S. and Turkey have been chilly since the Turkish government announced its decision to start negotiations with a Chinese firm for the co-production of a $3.4 billion missile defense system.

The decision triggered serious concerns among Turkey’s Western allies and NATO member states, particularly the U.S. The relations have also be strained over the U.S.’ policy regarding the Syrian crisis.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week that Turkey would be open to new offers if its talks about co-producing a long-range air and missile-defense system with China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp (CPMIEC) fail.

Turkey has asked the U.S. to extend the pricing on Raytheon Co’s Patriot missile defense system proposal, Reuters reported Oct. 28.

U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone said last week that Washington had begun “expert” talks with Ankara to assess the impact of its plans to co-produce the long-range air and missile defense system with a Chinese firm under U.S. sanctions.

Nuland set to visit Turkey

As part of intensified efforts to improve ties, Nuland will hold talks with Turkish officials in her first visit to Turkey since taking up her present post.

Moreover, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will pay a visit to Washington for bilateral talks on Nov. 18.
Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) Rick Barton will travel to Turkey on Nov. 2-7.

Barton will meet with members of the Syrian opposition to discuss the CSO’s transition assistance to support Syrian local councils and civil society in their efforts to provide essential services, to extend the rule of law and to enhance stability inside captured areas of Syria. He will also meet with Turkish government officials.

The visits come in the wake of recent U.S. newspaper reports in recent weeks suggesting Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan had shared sensitive information with Iran, which has led to speculation that ties between the two had soured.