Differences persist ahead of Erdoğan-Obama meeting

A lengthy meeting between Davutoğlu and Clinton seems to have failed to eliminate the divergence between the two countries' policies on such key issues.

Differences persist ahead of Erdoğan-Obama meeting

A lengthy meeting held between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday seems to have failed to eliminate the divergence between the two countries' policies on such key issues as Palestine's bid for UN recognition, strained relations between Israel and Turkey and a recently escalated standoff between Turkey and Greek Cyprus over drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

The almost one-and-a-half-hour meeting between Clinton and Davutoğlu held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York came just a day before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's meeting with US President Barack Obama late on Tuesday.

Davutoğlu, speaking to reporters following the meeting, said that he and Clinton, before everything else, confirmed their cooperation against the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Noting that they also talked about Prime Minister Erdoğan's recent tour of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, Davutoğlu said they discussed the future of the Arab Spring and prospects for peace and stability in the Middle East.

"Another important issue is the relation between Turkey and Israel. This issue has been discussed within the context of developments in the Middle East. Our position on this issue is extremely clear," Davutoğlu said, adding that Turkey has not retreated from its stance on Israel.

In early September, following the leaking of a UN report on last year's Israeli raid that killed nine Turks on an aid ship bound for Gaza, Turkey froze all military pacts with Israel, expelled the Israeli ambassador and vowed to take legal measures such as taking Israel's siege of Gaza at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as the report, which has been declared "null and void" by Turkey, failed to trigger an Israeli apology

"US obstacles before Palestinian state"

On the US front, a senior official said Clinton had encouraged Davutoğlu to repair badly strained ties with Israel and play a "positive role" in resolving the Palestinian issue that is looming large over the General Assembly.

Officials said they would like the Turks, who support the Palestinian bid, to ease tensions with Israel by toning down what has been sharp rhetoric regarding Israel in recent weeks. This, the officials said, could improve the atmosphere at the UN.

Ahead of his departure for New York on Monday, Erdoğan said one of the most important topics that he plans to discuss with Obama will be the Palestinian bid for statehood.

He said the US always supported a two-state solution in the Arab-Israeli conflict and recalled Obama's speech last year at the UN where he hoped to see an independent Palestinian state in 2011. Erdoğan added that "we have difficulty understanding their behavior," referring to the fact that the US will veto the Palestinians' statehood bid at the UN Security Council.

Erdoğan said if the Security Council refuses to recognize the Palestinian state, the motion will come to the UN General Assembly, where states will overwhelmingly vote for recognition. Erdoğan said an independent Palestinian state would grant the Palestinians many rights, which seems to disturb Israel and the US.

"It appears that Turkey is shifting to a policy of confrontation, if not hostility, towards our allies in Israel, and we urge you to mount a diplomatic offensive to reverse this course," a joint letter from senators was quoted as saying on Monday.

As Turkey says that Greek Cyprus' unilateral moves for gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean are provocative, challenging the move by saying that it will begin its own oil and gas search as early as this week, Clinton told Davutoğlu that the island's internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government -- which is not recognized by Turkey -- had "a right" to decide how it exploits "its resources", US officials present during the meeting said.

While reiterating US support for negotiations to reunify Cyprus, Clinton also told Davutoğlu that the best way to sort out the problems related to energy and economic development is by finally ending the 37-year standoff, according to the US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

For his part, Davutoğlu said he told Clinton that Greek Cypriot moves are "provocations," as such unilateral moves would not bring peace to the region at a time when UN-led reunification negotiations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are ongoing.

"We are exerting efforts for turning the east Mediterranean into an area of peace. For this to happen, progress should be made in the Middle East peace process and the Cyprus dispute should be resolved, but this shouldn't happen through unilateral action," Davutoğlu said, calling his meeting with Clinton "extremely productive."

At the US State Department, following the meeting between Davutoğlu and Clinton, a senior official described the meeting as "excellent."

When asked whether this description meant that the two were on the same page on all of the issues discussed during the meeting, the official replied: "I don't think an excellent meeting is necessarily translated by 'they agreed a hundred percent on every single issue they discussed.' It was an excellent meeting in the way her meetings with the foreign minister are always excellent, which is they're frank with each other, they're honest with each other, they both are clearly committed to this relationship."

As a positive note on the US-Turkey cooperation, the two countries have been coordinating efforts in a bid to explore how to deal with the possibility of a civil war among Syria's Alawite, Druze, Christian and Sunni sects, according to a report by The New York Times.

"Syria is sure to be discussed when President Obama meets Tuesday with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey on the periphery of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, administration officials say.

A senior administration official said the abandonment of Mr. Assad by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and European nations would increase his isolation, particularly as his military became more exhausted by the lengthening crackdown," the Times reported on Monday.

Meanwhile, during an international symposium on counterterrorism on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, in an apparent protest against Israel, Davutoğlu left the hall minutes before Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon took the stage to deliver a speech.

In Jerusalem, Yaron Zamir, spokesman for Israel's minister of public security, said on Tuesday that Israel has withdrawn its police representative in Turkey, the latest sign of the crumbling alliance between two former close allies.

Zamir said the police attache "has faced difficulties working and moving freely." The attache maintains connections with police across eastern Europe and the Balkans. Zamir said he will now be based in Romania.


Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2011, 17:33
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