ANKARA: Turkish minister to visit USA due to concerns over Iraq – da

Turkish minister to visit USA due to concerns over Iraq – daily

Yeni Safak website, Istanbul
17 Mar 06

Text of report by Duygu Guvenc: “Concerns about Iraq prompt Gul,
who was reluctant to visit the USA, to change his mind” published by
Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak website on 17 March

In addition to some other factors, a series of ups and downs observed
in Turkish-American relations have played a crucial role in the visit
to be paid by five members of the cabinet to the United States towards
the end of this month. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who had earlier
decided not to go to the United States, changed his mind because of
the recent developments in Iraq.

The five ministers will fly to the United States to attend the 25th
joint annual conference to be organized by the American-Turkish Council
(ATC), Turkish-American Business Council, and the American Friends of
Turkey between 26 and 29 March. In addition to Gul, State Minister
Kursat Tuzmen, Energy Minister Hilmi Guler, Agriculture Minister
Mehdi Eker, and Tourism Minister Atilla Koc will attend conference
sponsored by the ATC.

The decision about Gul’s visit to the United States was made following
lengthy assessments made by the Foreign Ministry. Gul also weighed up
the pros and cons of not going to the United States and his advisers
eventually asked the US side to arrange a meeting with US Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice, which is expected to take place on 27 March.

The possibility of cancelling Gul’s visit to the United States was
earlier discussed in diplomatic circles. Foreign Ministry officials
analysed the rising influence of the neo-cons over the US State
Department and their argument that Turkey must pledge unconditional
support. Those evaluations made by the high-ranking officials of the
Ministry led to the conclusion that the United States was taking a
harder line towards Iran and that it would pursue a policy aimed at
escalating the crisis.

Taking account of Turkey’s reluctance to give unqualified support
for the US policy vis-a-vis Iran, reactions provoked by a visit paid
by a Hamas leader, and angry reactions expressed by some members of
the Jewish Diaspora in the United States, Foreign Ministry officials
assessed the merits of a decision to advise Gul not to go to the United
States. The postponement of Rice’s visit to Turkey, which was scheduled
to take place in January, was also taken into consideration. They,
however, later concluded that holding talks with the US side would
be necessary in a period marked by mounting concerns that a civil
war could start in Iraq and lead to its dismemberment.

Planned meetings

Turkey’s concerns about Iraq and especially Kirkuk also influenced
the decision that Gul should visit Washington.

Gul is also expected to tell the US side that they were still trying
to convince Iran to cooperate, emphasizing that Turkey was urging
Tehran to ensure transparency of its nuclear programme while taking
a cooperative approach. US sources, however, said that no proposal
concerning Iran would be made during the meeting between Rice and Gul.

Gul will also have meetings with the members of the Jewish lobby
in Washington. Meanwhile, Ankara will host Barry Jacobs, Turkey
Director of the American Jewish Committee on 20 March. In addition,
a delegation from the US Congress led by Senator John Warner will
visit Ankara next week. The stand to be taken by the Jewish Diaspora,
which was bothered by the Hamas leader’s visit to Turkey, regarding
a draft resolution about the Armenian allegations of genocide, which
will be tabled in the US Congress once again, will be regarded by
Ankara as an important factor.

In addition to his meeting with Rice, Gul will also have a meeting with
US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley in order to emphasize his
concerns about Iraq. Turkey fears that a civil war may be impending
in Iraq and Gul will also reiterate Turkey’s expectations about the
PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party]. Rice is expected to raise the Hamas
leader’s visit to Turkey and Gul will tell her that the objective
of their meetings with the Hamas leader was not different then the
purpose of the United States’ calls.

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