Mon, Jan 07, 2008 - Page 7 News List

US, Turkey anticipate harmonious talks

AFP , WASHINGTON

With the US bowing to Turkey's insistence on punitive action against Kurdish rebels in Iraq, the two nations can look forward to a more harmonious encounter at summit talks this week.

US President George W. Bush is set to welcome his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul to the White House tomorrow morning, shortly before Bush leaves for the Middle East on his first visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The leaders are expected to discuss Turkey's long-running bid to join the EU, an aspiration warmly backed by the US in the face of resistance from some EU powerbrokers such as France.

And with Bush seeking to revitalize Middle East peace talks, Turkey's influence with Israel and Arab states will also figure in Gul's Washington talks, as will Iran's nuclear ambitions, the State Department said.

It will be Gul's debut trip to Washington since the Islamist politician took over as Turkey's president in August.

Since then, Turkish opinion has been inflamed by deadly cross-border attacks from northern Iraq by the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and by a push in the US Congress to accuse the old Ottoman Empire of "genocide."

But on both fronts, Turkey's government has grounds for satisfaction as the two presidents bid to reinvigorate the oft-strained partnership between the US and its Muslim-majority NATO ally.

Mark Parris, a former US ambassador to Turkey, said the breakthrough came in November when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan enjoyed a "meeting of minds" with Bush in Washington at the bloody height of the PKK raids.

"Bush used for the first time the expression `common enemy,' which elevated the perceived threat posed by the PKK to US interests," said Parris, an expert on Turkey at the Brookings Institution.

Bush promised Erdogan real-time US intelligence on PKK guerrilla movements across the mountainous border between Turkey and Iraq, and the US acquiesced to Turkish air raids on rebel redoubts.

In return, Parris claims, the Turkish military promised to limit civilian casualties, to eschew overnight stays on Iraqi soil and to avoid actions that could destabilize Iraq more broadly.

Late last month, Gul told the Anatolia news agency that the US support "befits our alliance" and added: "This is how it should be. We could have come to this point earlier."

Ahmet Davutoglu, Erdogan's chief foreign policy adviser, said the joint work against the PKK since the Washington visit has done much to mend US-Turkish fences.

"The Turkish-American cooperation is bearing fruit, we're satisfied with it," he said on Wednesday.

This story has been viewed 2020 times.
TOP top