Turkey expects US to display ‘stronger will’ regarding drone sales

May 24, 2012, Thursday/ 00:00:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Turkey said it expects the US, its chief NATO ally, to display what Turkish foreign minister said was “stronger will” when it comes to the sale of armed drones to Turkey.

Ahmet Davutoğlu, speaking to TRT Haber TV station from New York, said President Abdullah Gül clearly expressed this issue to his US counterpart, Barack Obama, during their bilateral meeting on the margins of NATO’s Chicago Summit earlier this week.

Davutoğlu said Obama supports the sale of drones in principle but cites Congress as a problem.

“Difficulties in decision-making [in the US government] happen for many agenda items. We want stronger will to be displayed,” Davutoğlu said in the interview. Davutoğlu argued that allies should consider each other’s security needs and that Turkey is considering its ally’s security needs, asking the US to reciprocate in this regard.

On Wednesday, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes reiterated the same concerns of the US administration during a press meeting in Washington. “Obviously, we’re familiar with Turkey’s interests in acquiring additional assets, including unmanned aerial vehicles as a part of those counterterrorism efforts. That’s something that we have to discuss not just with Turkey, but also with our Congress,” Rhodes maintained. “We obviously support Turkey’s efforts to combat terrorism, the PKK, and any other group, just as we welcome Turkey’s support for our efforts against al-Qaeda,” Rhodes said, mentioning that Gül and Obama discussed the issue of the fight against terrorism thoroughly during their talk on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

Turkey seeks to buy armed drones from the US, but the request has been controversial, with some in the US Congress refusing to agree to the sale of aircraft 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.

A report published in the Wall Street Journal that claimed Turkey decided to bomb 34 civilians based on intelligence provided by US Predators -- which help Turkey gather intelligence against the PKK -- have come amid the haggling with the US on the sale of armed Predators. The civilians, who were assumed to be PKK terrorists, were killed by Turkish warplanes last December.

‘Syrian regime destroying all its chances’

Davutoğlu also touched upon the Syrian problem during his televised interview, saying that the Syrian administration was destroying all the chances given by Turkey and the international community one by one.

“Everybody, including Turkey, supported the Annan Plan for Syria, but unfortunately the violence did not stop in Syria,” added Davutoğlu. Noting that 1,500 people had been killed since a cease-fire had been declared in Syria, Davutoglu said that the Annan Plan was being wasted.

Davutoğlu met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on the same day and exchanged thoughts on the Syrian situation, which is still a hotly debated issue in Turkey since the conflict first began a year-and-a-half ago. Davutoğlu said the number of UN observers going to Syria within the scope of the Annan Plan should be further increased, adding that increasing the number from 266 to 300 would not be enough. He reminded Ban that 1,450 Syrians had been killed since the cease-fire was declared.

The foreign minister also told Ban about his phone conversation about Syria with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and his Lebanese counterpart, Adnan Mansour, on Wednesday.

At least nine people died while fighting in the past few days in Lebanon’s port city of Tripoli, where sectarian tension has been growing as a result of the revolt in neighboring Syria, highlighting how the violence in Syria could spill over into Lebanon, which was garrisoned by Syrian troops until 2005.

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