Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has set out on a trip to the United States, which will be followed by visits to Russia and Iran, with the Syrian crisis high on the agenda.
Following his trip to Washington on Nov. 17-18, Davutoğlu will head to Russia to attend the Turkey-Russia High Level Strategic Cooperation Council’s meeting on Nov. 21-22, with a delegation headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
He will pay a visit to Iran for another meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization, set for Nov. 26-27.
During his visit to the U.S., Davutoğlu aims to make Turkey’s positions on a number of issues clearer in the eyes of different decision makers in Washington through separate meetings, with the Syrian crisis top of the agenda.
In his first official visit to Washington after last year’s U.S. presidential elections, he will meet his U.S. counterpart John Kerry and have a meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The minister will also make contacts in the U.S. Congress and hold talks with representatives and opinion leaders of a number of NGOs in Washington.
The U.S. has made it clear that it has no intention of intervening militarily into Syria, and Turkey, one of the most vocal proponents of action to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is uneasy at being left to confront the consequences of conflict in neighboring Syria.
Turkey has been accused of turning a blind eye to extremist Islamic militants streamed through the country en route to fight alongside rebels.
U.S. officials say Ankara and Washington agree on the larger strategy for Syria, but sometimes differ in tactics.
Davutoğlu’s visit to Washington comes on the heels of recent engagement of the U.S. with Iran, which is also expected to be part of the talks. Ankara supports a diplomatic settlement to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and says it will continue to advocate this initiative.
Missiles also on agenda
Turkey’s much-debated choice to acquire a Chinese long-range air-defense system is also expected to be raised in Washington. Ankara announced that it would start contract talks with the FD-2000 missile-defense system from China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC) over rival systems from U.S. and European firms. However, the Chinese firm is under U.S. sanctions for violations of Nonproliferation Act Sanctions (INKSNA).
After U.S. officials voiced concerns over the selection of the Chinese company, Turkey said it was open to new proposals from the U.S. and European companies, which recently contacted Turkish defense authorities to renew their proposals.
Davutoğlu’s visit also comes after Turkish officials were recently irked by a series of recent articles in the U.S. media criticizing the policies of Hakan Fidan, the chief of Turkish intelligence. Taking account of the timing of Ankara’s decision for a Chinese firm, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has conveyed its unease to U.S. officials over those articles and stressed that they would not only harm bilateral interests, but also U.S. interests.
The U.S. has long been urging normalization in relations between Turkey and Israel, after both countries launched compensation talks on the Mavi Marmara incident of 2010. There has been some recent progress in compensation talks, and negotiations could be finalized in the near future, sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Turkey also wants to lend impetus to the Minsk talks for a settlement in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, which would also pave the way for implementation of the protocols between Turkey and Armenia that aim to normalize relations. Getting a positive message from the Azerbaijani side for progress in the Minsk process, Minister Davutoğlu is expected to urge the U.S. to push the negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh.
As Turkey is making efforts to fine-tune relations between Ankara and Baghdad, the issue of Turkey’s energy deals with the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are also set to be on the agenda. A possible settlement in Cyprus will be discussed as well, with Turkish and Greek Cypriots about to resume negotiations.
‘Turkey and the US do not have the luxury of remaining apart from each other’
Meanwhile, on the occasion of his trip the U.S., Davutoğlu has written an article for Foreign Policy magazine, in which he underlined the vital relationship between the two countries. “In today’s ever more complex and fluid international environment – with Syria in crisis and much of the Middle East in flux – the U.S.-Turkish relationship remains vital for a sustainable regional and global order,” he wrote.
“Alignment with the West during times of crisis, such as the Arab Spring, is testament to how deeply such shared values are embedded in the genesis of our foreign policy. On that ground, the United States and Turkey do not have the luxury of remaining aloof or apart from each other; our joint work has proven indispensable to regional security and stability,” he added.
“Despite our many and early warnings about the radicalization of the Syrian opposition, the international community has so far failed to deliver a just and decisive settlement. Yet, even counting the attempts of extremist groups to step into the political void, there is no greater threat to Syria and its people than al-Assad and his anachronistic rule,” Davutoğlu also wrote in the article.
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