Turkish President Abdullah Gül and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, met in Chicago on Monday on the sidelines of a NATO Summit, but failed to make any progress on the sale of armed drones.
Turkey seeks to buy armed drones from the United States, but the request has been controversial, with some in the US Congress refusing to agree to a sale of aircraft to Turkey given Ankara's deteriorating relations with Israel, a close US ally. The US administration, on the other hand, is reportedly willing to sell the drones to Turkey and is trying to persuade Congress not to block the sale.
Gül reportedly told Obama during the meeting that Turkey expects the US to meet its needs in its struggle against terrorism. Diplomatic sources added that Gül stated that the two leaders could not make any progress on the sale of American drones to Turkey.
The sources also said Obama told Gül he understands Turkey's need for the sale of the drones and that it is also on his administration's agenda, but that “this is not something I can deal with alone. “There is Congress,” Obama reportedly told Gül, referring to the high possibility that Congress will block the sale.
Gül also told Obama that addressing Turkey's needs in its struggle against terrorism will contribute to the consolidation of US relations with Turkey. Obama replied that he absolutely agrees with President Gül's assessment.
Debate over the planned sale has heated up lately after a US report claimed that American drones providing intelligence on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) across the Turkish-Iraqi border provided the first intelligence to Turkish officials about a group of Kurdish villagers who were smuggling goods from Iraq into Turkey. The US drones, according to a news report published in the Wall Street Journal, alerted Turkish authorities to the group's presence. The villagers were assumed to be PKK terrorists and attacked by Turkish warplanes, leaving 34 civilians dead.
Gül told a group of journalists ahead of his talks that the proposed sale is to come up at the meeting. He argued that if the sale of drones is a sensitive issue, that should be the same for F-35 jet fighters, which are even “more dangerous” weapons than the drones. The US has decided to share F-35 technology with Turkey.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and Turkish Ambassador to the United States Namık Tan accompanied the Turkish president.
In a 30-minute meeting, economic relations, the crisis in Syria, Turkish-Armenian relations and the Cyprus issue were all discussed. Gül complained that trade relations with the US are very insufficient and that the two sides were unable to make much progress in their latest talks.
Gül asked Obama to be on the front lines in the international community to help put an end to 14 months of violence in Syria, and Obama assured Gül that the US is doing what is necessary on this issue. He also said the foreign ministers of both countries and relevant bodies are working together on the Syria crisis.
Obama also underlined that it is significant that the US's two important allies, Turkey and Israel, mend ties in the face of new developments in the Arab world which will contribute to peace and stability in the region. Gül responded that “Israel knows what to do,” referring to Turkey's demand for an official apology and compensation for the Israeli storming of a Turkish-owned ship carrying aid to Gaza in the summer of 2010.