US URGES TURKEY TO DEFUSE ROW WITH ISRAEL
Agence France Presse
September 19, 2011 Monday 7:31 PM GMT
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here on Monday urged Turkey to
defuse tension and repair strategic ties with Israel as Washington
values them both as allies, US officials said.
Washington has expressed mounting concern about the bitter row between
Turkey and Israel over a May 2010 Israeli commando raid on an aid
flotilla heading to the Gaza Strip that left nine Turks dead.
In her meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in New
York, Clinton “made clear that this is not a time when we need more
tension, more volatility in the region,” a senior US official said
on condition of anonymity.
The chief US diplomat and Davutoglu met before US President Barack
Obama holds talks Tuesday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan as they gather for the UN General Assembly opening Wednesday.
The United States has offered to mediate an end to the Israeli-Turkish
crisis — which analysts said could also harm ties between NATO allies
Washington and Ankara — but Davutoglu has rejected the US offer.
Washington stressed that the countries are “two close friends and
allies of the United States, and urged them to keep the door open,”
another US State Department official told reporters.
It asked Turkey to “avoid steps that would close that door, and on the
contrary to actively seek ways that they can repair their important
relationship with Israel,” the official said.
“It’s not really for us to structure the detailed path forward in
the way Turkey and Israel are going to relate to each other,” the
“We want to be helpful if we can but ultimately they need to talk
to each other,” the official said, adding it is not for Washington
“to write the plan.”
Israel and Turkey have been locked in a bitter dispute since May 2010
when Israeli naval commandos stormed a convoy of six ships trying to
reach the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade.
Earlier this month, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and froze
military ties and defense trade deals. Ties strained even further
when Erdogan threatened to send warships to escort any Turkish vessels
trying to reach Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The United Nations criticized Israel for using “excessive” force in
the 2010 raid, but upheld Israel’s right to impose a naval blockade
on Gaza. Israel has refused Turkish demands for an apology.
Apart from the Turkish-Israel dispute, Clinton and Davutoglu discussed
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on popular protests, the
revolution in Libya, Somalia, and moves to normalize Turkish-Armenian
ties, officials said.
The United States and Turkey are long-time NATO allies.
However, Ankara is now pursuing a more independent course that is
putting it at odds with Washington: its hard line over the Cyprus
problem, its softer line on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and
its late support for Libya’s rebels.
The US official said the United States supports “the right” of the
internationally-recognized government of Cyprus to explore for energy
off its shores amid a dispute with Turkey over such exploration.
Turkey has repeatedly called on the Republic of Cyprus to postpone
its gas exploration, saying it has no right to do so while the island
remains split, thus leaving the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus —
which is only recognized by Ankara — out of the picture.
On the positive side, US officials said Turkey has agreed to host
a radar for the reconfigured NATO anti-missile shield in Europe,
which is designed to counter future missile threats from Iran.