Monday, November 23, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: US Weary over Turkey-Iran Deal

by David Bedein

JERUSALEM - The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that the United States has expressed increasing dissatisfaction with Turkey's alliance with neighboring Iran.

U.S. officials said the Turkish rapprochement with Iran would be a leading item on the agenda of talks during a summit in Washington in December and added that President Barack Obama would raise the Turkish alliance with Iran during his meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.

"It's not a good thing to make business, at the moment, with Iran," U.S. Assistant Secretary Philip Gordon said.

Mr. Gordon, responsible for European and Eurasian affairs, met Turkish officials in November to discuss the agenda for Mr. Erdogan's meeting with the Obama administration. During a wide-ranging briefing, the U.S. official stressed that Ankara and Washington would be required to resolve a range of issues.

"There were more points of disagreement than of agreement with Turkey," Mr. Gordon said.

In November, Iran and Turkey signed a multi-billion-dollar energy agreement that elicited strong opposition from Washington.

Officials said the Obama administration warned the Erdogan government that the accord sent the wrong signal to Iran amid the international drive to stop its uranium enrichment program.

"Iran needs to be assured that it has to cooperate with the international community," Mr. Gordon said.

"Otherwise, it will face consequences."

The Obama administration has also been alarmed by Mr. Erdogan's statements that Turkey would not support United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran. Turkey, a leading member of NATO, has been a non-permanent member of the council.

Other disagreements between Ankara and Washington were said to include Turkey's warm relationship with Sudan. In November, Turkey invited Sudanese President Omar Bashir, accused of war crimes in the Darfur province, to an Islamic summit in Istanbul.

The American government has also been dismayed by Mr. Erdogan's efforts to reduce Turkish defense and strategic relations with Israel. Mr. Erdogan was warned by the U.S. that the prime minister's policy would hurt Turkish interests in the U.S. Congress.

"Americans watch closely Turkey’s relations with its neighbors," Mr. Gordon said.

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

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