Today’s Zaman has an intriguing description of the 75-minute meeting that Obama held with Turkish PM Rejep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday, the eve of yesterday’s G-20 meeting in Canada.
It’s an election year in the U.S. (as indeed it is every other year… ) and Obama is under a lot of pressure from the powerful pro-Israel lobby AIPAC to distance himself from longtime NATO ally and Afghanistan war contributing nation Turkey. See e.g. this pathetic piece of anti-Turkish propaganda sent around recently by AIPAC media director Josh Block.
So I suppose it’s not totally surprising that, as TZ noted, the Ehite House tried to keep the Obama-Erdogan meeting ” a low-profile event… It released a considerably brief statement after the one-hour, 15-minute meeting and offered no photo opportunities… 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.”
Too bad Obama doesn’t have more backbone, though, given the completely scurrilous (and often borderline racist and/or Islamophobic) nature of the anti-Turkish campaign and also Turkey’s role– did I mention this yet?– as a long-time NATO ally and weighty, successfully democratizing, majority Muslim nation at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.
TZ parsed the very brief comment the White House did eventually make about the meeting, and the reported contents of the meeting that it gained from participants, very carefully indeed:
- The fact that the adjective “strategic” was not used before the word “allies” in the White House statement was… 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.
Regarding the crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations provoked by Israel’s extremely lethal May 31 raid against the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara, the TZ reporter wrote:
- the US side expressed uneasiness over the recent course of affairs regarding [Turkish-Israeli] 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 [the aid flotilla]…
That first point is interesting given that, as I reported here, recent high-level Turkish visitors to Washington were pleading publicly (though in a dignified way) for U.S. help in healing Turkey’s rift with Israel. However, it still doesn’t look as if Obama was promising to do very much to help.
Maybe after the November elections?
The other issue that recently harmed Israel’s formerly fairly robust ties with Turkey was Ankara’s role– along with Brazil– in winning Tehran’s support for a fuel-swap agreement that when implemented would remove 1,200 kg of 19%-enriched uranium from Iran and replace it with medically specific fuel rods that can’t be used in any realistic nuclear weapons program.
On that, TZ reported that during the Obama-Erdogan meeting,
- 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.
In [the G-8 meeting that prceded the G-20 meeting 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.
TZ quoted an excerpt from the G-8 group’s final communique that included this:
- We… 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.