Turkey conf live-blog #4

Turkish Amb. Namik Tan:
The U.S. needs to rely more on alliances and soft power than it has until now.
Turkey is a country with many friends in its region and around the world and with a booming economy… The highest growth rate in the OECD. The only government that didn’t have to intervene in the financial sector during the recent crisis. Construction sector second only to China’s… Pipeline projects, etc.
The alliance between Turkey and the U.S. is extremely powerful. It acts at the economic and cultural levels and is very important for both parties, including in defusing the idea of a clash of civilizations.
… We have now been moving to strengthen and modernize our strategic relationship with the United States.

There has recently been a spate of op-eds suggesting a “shift of axis” by Turkey. Turkey’s western orientation is irreversible. Our application to the EU represents our commitment to freedom and democracy and has been very substantially completed. Our commitment to NATO is longstanding.
Our policy of Zero prblems with the Neighbors is inclusive and is not limited by religion or nationality. Our relations with Armenia have improved; with Azerbaijan… Greece, Syria, etc.
With Israel we had a trade volume of $5.5 billion in 2008. This is unprecedented. One of our very important trade partners, as well as its political importance to our country…
We are directly affected by conflicts in our region, whether Iraq, Lebanon, Bosnia, Arab-Israeli conflict, or Iranian nuclear developments. So we do what we can to mediate differences between for example Afghanistan and Pakistan, or between different groups on Iraq, or between Syria and Israel, and so on.
Our relations with the US and the EU complement our relations in Central Asia or with Russia. These are complementary, not competitive relations.
About the Middle East: We enjoy deep relations in the region. We are not outsiders. Our common bjective is to transform the region into one of peace and prosperity. Sadly the Islamic world has been a bystander to the development of world civilizations in recent decades but now it is starting to emerge. Turkey is proud of its role within the OIC [the Organization of the Islamic Conference], including our call for the creation of a human-rights body in the OIC…
We need a just and sustainable peace in the Middle East. It will help make the region into one of peace prosperity. We cannot ignore the yearning of the Palestinians for independence and freedom. The peace process has to move forward rapidly. Otherwise it will move backwards and lead to a new explosion.
We strongly believe the blockade on Gaza should be lifted, allowing the 1.5 million Palestinians living there to live a dignified life…
regarding our relations with Israel. Turkey has been the first Muslim country to recognize Israel– right after the United States. [He was previously ambassador to Israel.] It has continued for 63 years. This on the basis of a 500-year friendship between the Turks and the Jews. Now this relationship jeopardized by the Israeli attack on the civilian aid convoy that left nine Turkish citizens including one joint US-Turkish citizen dead. This the first time a state attacks Turkish civilians in peace time.
The Gaza convoy was not an initiative of the Turkish government. It was non-governmental; and it was not only Turkish. The Mavi Marmara had passengers from 33 countries. Among the 600 participants in the flotilla were many leading citizens from many countries including an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor. This happened in international waters.
Israel must apologize for those killings, and accept the international enquiry as called for by the secretary General.
Israel is now heading for greater isolation and risks losing its friendship with Turkey.
The ball is not in our court. It’s in Israel’s court: How does it see its relationship with Turkey? And how does it see its policy on the Palestinian issue? As Pres. Obama has said, the Palestinian issue enflames passions in many parts of the Muslim world including in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Now, on the Iranian nuclear issue. This is another hot topic.
We are against Iranian nuclearization. We are the only western country that’s capable of conveying the demands of the P5+1 to Tehran… We have fulfilled nearly all the conditions and concerns Obama laid out in the parallel letters he sent to Pres. Lula and he sent a similar letter to our prime minister.
We are against sanctions. We have suffered from sanctions in the past; and we will be the ones to suffer most from sanctions against Iran. We think that given our stake we should have a place at the table.
Also if we’d supported the sanctions, this new window of opportunity for negotiations would have been closed forever.
We don’t say that the Tehran Agreement solved all the problems, but it made substantial progress and opened the window for further engagement.
Turkey and the U.S. have many overlapping interests and a long and steady relationship… Our soldiers work together in Afghanistan and in the waters off Somalia… We need each other more than ever.
Later, in the Q&A:
Tan: I have served three very happy years as ambassador in Israel, and I could never have imagined such an incident between our civilian citizens and the Israeli armed forces. But it did happen. Now we have to deal with it. We have to look at how we can mend the relationship, and how e can put things together again.
We don’t want much. We want an apology.
Right now feelings in both countries are very high. We need a neutral third party. I’ve contacted many people here and there is understanding of the fact that if there is a falling out between these two countries then matters could become very much worse in the region– which would affect all of us: Israel, Turkey, and the United States. A zero-sum game approach would be very damaging for all of us.
I don’t think we should get depressed about the situation. We should work. We should try to explain to our Israeli friends that what they have done is wrong.
We cannot take the first step. It is ridiculous to expect Turkey to apologize. The Jewish diaspora here are very sophisticated people, but they are very emotional. They have tried to shift the blame onto Turkey. If they have any concrete accusations, let’s have the international inquiry commission to look at the facts.

12 thoughts on “Turkey conf live-blog #4”

  1. A very graphic illustration of the extent to which US Foreign Policy is wagged by its Likudnik tail: nothing could be more reasonable, from a NATO and State Department perspective, than Namik Tan’s positions.
    But the US government cannot bring itself to defy the McCarthys and Bilbos of the AIPAC dispensation. It is hog tied to the extent that its only reply to Turkey is going to have to be :
    1/ The Israeli Commission is composed of as open minded and non partisan a bunch of jurists as there are in the world.
    2/Until the Honourable Commission reports the questions of whether International Law was breached, the ships were full of heavily armed anti-semitic terrorists and the deaths of the Turks were caused by IDF members are all moot. So any call for apology is premature. And might in fact suggest prejudice against Israel which is anti-semitism.

  2. The four live-blogs have been very interesting. They indicate an almost perfect come back to the confused Western – mainly US – response to the events of the last month or so in the ME. In effect Turkey seems to be one of the most reasonable countries currently existing. In effect they have turned the other cheek to the bullying stance of Israel and its ally the USA and made them both look the fools they have developed into regarding IR. If Hillary and her aggressive DoS eventually try to make amends with Turkey there will be polite smiles by the diplomatically inclined though out the world, so as not to embarrass her et al too too much – those less so will simply smirk behind a hand.

  3. Thanks for these live-blogs, Helena. Very interesting.
    I read the Turkish newspapers quite regularly to try to get a sense of the level of opposition to the AK’s position on this issue. There is some, of course — including some press hysteria. But I get no sense that Erdogan is going to clime down from his principled position, including his demand for a real, UN sponsored investigation into the Med massacre. There may well be an election there in November, but with the electorate quite solid behind the AK, I don’t think the party has much to worry about.
    What we have to worry about here is the anti-Turkey neocon-AIPAC campaign. It would be well if more left-leaning North American Jews would speak up. As a Canadian, I’m waiting for Stephen Lewis and his feminist wife Michelle Landsberg (Naomi Klein’s in-laws) to throw their hats in the ring.

  4. Tom Friedman also has been writing about Turkey in the NYT yesterday and today. Needless to say, his take on things is quite different from Helena’s.
    Always the business flack and chicken hawk, He sees great hope in the economic rise of Turkey, but tempers his enthusiasm by seeing a dangerous Islamic-fundamentalist drift in the current regime. He compares Erdogan to Hugo Chavez and Vladimir Putin. He also claims that more people in Turkey that he talked to than anywhere else in the world asked that their names not be used for fear of government retribution. – who does Tom talk to besides big business flacks?
    Anyway he sees hope because he claims that recent polls show the AKP losing to the opposition for the first time, and he thinks that is partly the reason Turkey has turned so viciously on its old friend Israel – to gain Islamic support. Reasonable Tom thinks the Israeli flotilla raid may have been a bit overdone but that Turkey’s reaction is way overblown. Imagine a country getting upset just because another country’s military murders your citizens in international waters. And the Israeli self-investigation whitewash is fine.
    Tom, unfortunately, is one of the most read and influential of all the columnists and his views should not be ignored. Of course, he also always tries to make his rantings sound reasonable.

  5. Why does Turkey want Iran and Syria to be able to ship theater-level rockets by sea to Hamas in Gaza for unfettered use on Israeli targets, or will it agree to an Israeli inspection regime likely to forestall that? Also, the “protected minority” position of Turkish Jews is a reminder to Israelis of the position of the Diaspora communities even in “friendly” quarters of the Islamic world like Turkey and Morocco and thus of the fundamental necessity of Zionism.

  6. Eurosabra, where did these ridiculous, quite unsubstantiated, and hyperbolic accusation come from, and why do you bother voicing them here?
    What’s with all the faux-‘expert’ “theater-level rockets” business, designed to stir up fears?
    As you should know (or would, if you were a serious follower of events) Turkey, like a growing bloc of other powers in the international community, wants to see an opening of Gaza’s borders to the international community wherein its borders would be carefully monitored by an international, most likely EU, body. That was already supposed to happen to some extent under Condi Rice’s 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, but Israel stepped in with the siege instead.
    You look quite pathetic with your claims about Turkey supporting Hamas’s importation of “theater-level rockets… for unfettered use on Israeli targets.” Also, when you talk about an alleged “protected minority” position for Turkish Jews. Do you have any idea at all what you’re talking about? Sometimes in the past, I have thought so. In this comment, no.

  7. I think you need a reminder that people with experience of Israeli security,(as I hope my postings here on the evolution of security doctrine in Gaza have indicated), both in and out of the current establishment, really do read you, and regard you as a successor of Crane, St. John Philby, and Sir John Bagot Glubb, determined foes of Jewish statehood in the Land of Israel, all. The main issue with the sea blockade is a replication of the re-arming of Hezbollah as in the period 2006-date and the creation of a strategic threat, thus an effective interdiction will be maintained, even perhaps at the cost of sinking neutral vessels without warning.
    After the synagogue attacks, the sword of Damocles hangs over the heads of Turkish Jews, as it has for the French Jews since Rue Copernic.

  8. sabra, your worthless ad hominem aside you didn’t even address helena’s objections to your earlier assertions which absolutely underline your inexperience w/israel’s security policy.
    The main issue with the sea blockade is not a replication of the re-arming of Hezbollah as in the period 2006-date and the creation of a strategic threat. you are ignoring the vital resources in the region israel wants to secure for itself. i suggest you read Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs by Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon circa 07 Does the Prospective Purchase of British Gas from Gaza’s Coastal Waters Threaten Israel’s National Security? for a clearer understanding of the real reason israel wants to set in stone a permanent blockade of gaza’s port which free has the potential to sustain and support independence for the palestinian people.
    justifying each and every whim of the zionist enterprise as ‘a security threat’ doesn’t fool anyone anymore.

  9. You say tomato, I say tomato, unlike you I’ve been rocketed, suicide bombed, and radio-detonated, so I’m not inclined to listen to anti-Israel sophistry. Ya’alon, whom I’ve met on a few occasions, is indeed a real mensch and Israeli patriot, much like Ami Ayalon, however I don’t trust him implicitly on security concerns. Thank you for reminding me of the implications of Gaza’s BP gas for a Pi Glilot-style attack against Israel, I was in the field for Magen David Adom Jerusalem that day and if you don’t think measures were taken at Atarot’s facility in response, you’re wrong. (After all, why build a bomb when you can hijack a tanker? Why give the Palestinians an airport after Pi Glilot?)
    I don’t think it’s an ad-hom to point out that her activism IS in the tradition of Wilbur Crane Eveland, and Philby, a Lebanese-oriented philo-Arabism that gainsays the problematics of Hezbollah for the romance of revolution. Whatever hurts Israel the most.

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