Erdoğan, Obama hold ‘candid’ discussions at critical summit

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had talks with US President Barack Obama amid »»
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had talks with US President Barack Obama amid a downturn in relations between the two NATO allies following a Turkish vote against UN sanctions on Iran and a Turkish-Israeli crisis over an Israeli raid on an aid ship.

Both Turkish and US officials have described the meeting, which took place on the sidelines of an international gathering in Canada on Saturday, as “a mutually clear and open conversation of two allies.”

In an apparent sign of the Obama administration's irritation with Turkey's vote against a US-backed UN Security Council resolution on new sanctions against Iran and with Turkish rhetoric after Israel's deadly assault on an aid flotilla last month, the White House apparently tried to keep the meeting a low-profile event.

It released a considerably brief statement after the one-hour, 15-minute meeting and offered no photo opportunities.

“President Obama met in advance of the G-20 dinner with Prime Minister Erdoğan of Turkey on Saturday evening. The two leaders had a wide-ranging and candid discussion between allies that addressed Iran’s nuclear program, Middle East peace, the flotilla incident, Afghanistan, the PKK [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and terrorism,” said the White House statement.

The White House announced Obama’s planned bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G-20 gathering, which took place in the Canadian city of Toronto over the weekend, a few days before the meeting, but his meeting with Erdoğan was not among those announcements. White House officials who were briefing the press concerning Obama’s bilateral meetings as the Erdoğan-Obama meeting was taking place didn’t mention this meeting at all.

The fact that the adjective “strategic” was not used before the word “allies” in the White House statement was also noteworthy. Yet, the expression “model partnership,” first introduced by Obama during an April 2009 visit to Turkey, was used during the discussions between Erdoğan and Obama, Today’s Zaman learned.

Turkish officials confirmed that the discussions covered the items listed in the White House statement. The meeting started later than scheduled because of the extra time played in Saturday’s World Cup match between US and Ghana, which Obama watched in his hotel room in Toronto.

The US side stated that its support for Turkey in its fight against terrorism as well as the activities of a trilateral mechanism between Iraq, Turkey and the US in order to combat the PKK, which has been in existence since November 2008, would continue, when the Turkish side brought up the issue of the recent rise in attacks by the PKK against Turkish security forces.

Underlining the importance it attaches to bilateral relations between Israel and Turkey, the US side expressed uneasiness over the recent course of affairs regarding these relations and said Washington would continue to lend support for the resolution of bilateral problems between the two countries.

Erdoğan, meanwhile, thanked Obama for his administration’s contribution to Israel’s release of activists on board an aid flotilla following the deadly May 31 raid by Israeli naval forces that led to the deaths of nine people.

The stalled efforts at normalization between Armenia and Turkey, controversial issues regarding the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in İstanbul, human rights issues and the Turkish government’s efforts for constitutional reform were not on the agenda of the meeting, sources said.

Turkish and US officials also discussed a plan brokered by Brazil and Turkey for Iran to send 1.2 tons of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad. The US side didn’t offer “any new mission” to Ankara regarding the Iran issue and didn’t encourage the Turkish side to continue its mediation efforts between Tehran and world powers, sources said.

G-8 praise for fuel swap deal

In Toronto, the leading eight industrial democracies praised Brazil and Turkey’s diplomatic overtures to Iran, even though they had been rejected by other members of the international community. Brazil and Turkey were the only two members of the UN Security Council to vote against the most recent set of sanctions on Iran.

“Our goal is to persuade Iran’s leaders to engage in a transparent dialogue about its nuclear activities and to meet Iran’s international obligations. We strongly support the ongoing efforts in this regard by China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union High Representative, and we welcome their commitment to the resolution of all outstanding issues through negotiation. We also welcome and commend all diplomatic efforts in this regard, including those made recently by Brazil and Turkey on the specific issue of the Tehran Research Reactor,” a final communiqué by the G-8 -- the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia -- said.



Columnist: ALİ H. ASLAN