Saturday, August 21, 2010

U.S. Tells Turkey Weapons Deals At Risk

The White House on Aug. 16 denied news reports that President Obama warned Turkey it could lose its chance to obtain US-made weapons over its position on Israel and Iran.

The Financial Times quoted a senior official as saying that Obama told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that "some of the actions that Turkey has taken have caused questions to be raised" by the U.S. Congress.

These questions centered on "whether we can have confidence in Turkey as an ally," the official said.

But while confirming the leaders spoke several days ago, White House spokesman Bill Burton denied that any "ultimatum" had been issued to Ankara.

"I really don't know where they would have divined that from," he said. "The president and Erdogan did speak about 10 days ago and they talked about Iran, and the [Gaza-bound] flotilla and other issues related to that. We obviously have an ongoing dialogue with them, but no such ultimatum was issued."

Erdogan wants to buy U.S. drones to combat separatist Kurdish rebels after the U.S. military withdraws from Iraq at the end of 2011, The Financial Times reported.

The rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), has bases in the mountains in the north of Iraq, near the Turkish border.

The United States voiced disappointment after Turkey voted against fresh U.N. sanctions on Iran, which the U.N. Security Council adopted in June. Ankara argued that Tehran should be given a chance to carry out a nuclear fuel swap deal, brokered by Turkey and Brazil.

The Financial Times quoted the unnamed official as saying congressional concerns over Turkey mean "that some of the requests Turkey has made of us, for example in providing some of the weaponry that it would like to fight the PKK, will be harder for us to move through Congress."

Relations between Turkey and Israel were thrown into crisis after an Israeli raid targeting Gaza-bound aid ships May 31, an attack that left nine Turks dead.

Obama called on Turkey to cool its rhetoric about the raid when he met Erdogan at the G20 summit in Toronto in June, The Financial Times reported.

The Turkish premier said in a television interview Aug. 16 that Turkish-American relations were on the up and up.

"Right now our relations with Mr. Obama and the relations between Turkey and the United States are going very well; we don't have any problem," Erdogan told the HaberTurk channel in reply to a question on the "ultimatum."

Describing his contacts with Obama as "warm," Erdogan declared: "The problems that might arise during negotiations on the purchase of arms are internal questions for each country."

The US Congress "might have a different evaluation, just as we have with our parliament," he said. "Sometimes when we put forward our views [to parliament], that leads to delays."

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