While it has been divulging its uneasiness with Ankara's recent Iran policy for some time, the Obama administration seems to have started to restrain its critical stance toward Ankara, particularly after recent international summits.
A senior US official has described Turkey's role at last month's NATO summit held in Lisbon as well as at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) summit that was held in Kazakhstan's capital of Astana in early December as “constructive,” while calling Turkey “a critical NATO partner” for his country.
“Turkey played a very constructive role at the NATO summit and at the OSCE summit. It's true that we disagreed about the vote on Iran. But we have always said that even strong friends and partners can have disagreements. And I think at Lisbon we showed ourselves to be good friends and partners in NATO,” Philip Gordon, the US assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs, said on Tuesday in response to a question from Today's Zaman at a teleconference with European journalists.
“Turkey had strong views on a number of issues and represented itself on those views but came together with all the other allies to support the ambitious agenda that I've already described, including on missile defense, including on cooperation with Russia, and including on the new strategic concept. And we all agreed. And Turkey took a very constructive position and I think showed anyone who was doubting that it wants to play a constructive role and is a critical NATO partner of the United States. Similarly in Astana we worked together and reached a common agreement. I think the series of summits only confirmed what we have been saying all along that even when we may have differences about which we are frank we also have a lot in common and are going to continue to pursue our mutual interest,” Gordon added.
Ankara has long insisted that NATO's strategic concept document should have no specific references to any country as a threat and that the legitimization of the missile system should be made in general terms. Ultimately, at the summit held in Lisbon, NATO leaders did not explicitly identify any potential enemy, although Iran is its main concern.
Recalling that NATO leaders agreed last month to improve defense capability against ballistic missile threats in general terms, Gordon stressed that “Turkey is an important part” of that agreement. “When we say it should cover all of NATO we mean it should cover all of Turkey as well,” he added.
Gordon noted that issues such as the location of the ballistic missile defense system's powerful X-band radars will be discussed by allies in the coming months. The issue was put aside for the moment at the Lisbon summit by NATO members in the interest of celebrating the agreement as a boost for NATO solidarity.