WASHINGTON — Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has arrived for a two-day visit to Washington at a moment in U.S.-Turkish relations that can largely be gauged by decisions related to other countries.
Davutoglu will meet top U.S. officials, including his American counterpart Secretary of State John Kerry, who will have high on the list of discussion topics Turkey's recent decision to purchase a long-range missile defense system from China. The U.S. is expected to tell Davutoglu that while they understand Turkey’s financial concerns, Chinese-made weapons will not be tolerated by a NATO member.
Other featured hotspots are expected to include Syria, Iraq, Israel and Egypt. According to U.S. diplomatic sources, the differences between Washington and Ankara on these four dossiers have diminished in recent weeks. Washington is glad that Turkey is now in full cooperation with them in Syria, and has distanced itself with al-Qaeda and its counterparts that are part of the opposition to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The Americans are also monitoring the growing trading ties between Baghdad and Ankara, and the U.S. sees opportunities to strengthen the cooperation in managing the energy resources of Iraq. Also, good relations with Baghdad may have positive effects on the peace process Turkey is continuing to pursue with the Kurds. Meanwhile in Egypt, Turkey's decision to send back its ambassador to Cairo is noted by the Americans as a sign of normalization.
However, Turkey’s decision to buy the missile system from China will be a sticking point in meetings Monday and Tuesday. American sources say while the mentioned project may be logical for Turkey commercially, it represents a fundamental strategic contradiction for a NATO member.
“We will be clearly telling Turkey that they cannot close this deal under the NATO roof," said the American source. "We understand Turkey’s commercial concerns, but we believe that NATO’s strategic and political concerns regarding security are more vital. Therefore, we will tell Davutoglu that it is impossible for a NATO member to purchase Chinese missiles.”
Another standing problem is Turkey-Israel relations. A U.S. official said the relations have worsened since Netanyahu apologized to Turkey last spring about the 2010 raid on the so-called "Gaza Flotilla" that left nine Turkish activists dead. It is expected that the Obama administration will voice their concerns to Davutoglu during the visit that Turkey is not encouraging good relations with Israel. Washington is also concerned about the freedoms of expression and press in Turkey, though the Americans see this as a perennial issue that will not be center stage.
It is notable that Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), will also be arriving in Washington later this month. The opposition chief, who arrives on Nov. 30, will face an even more skeptical attitude from the U.S. because of his party’s anti-American stance — notably his criticism of the NATO radar system.
It is not expected Kilicdaroglu is to be welcomed by senior Administration officials on U.S. soil, though it is possible that some officials from the White House and the Foreign Ministry may meet with him — along with members of Congress and think tanks. U.S. sources says while Washington is interested in the opposition leader’s statements on Turkey’s relations with Iraq, Syria and Egypt, as well as Turkey's efforts to join the European Union, they remain skeptical towards the CHP's anti-imperialistic rhetoric.