Public sensitivity criteria for using Turkish territory

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Public sensitivity criteria for using Turkish territory
Oluşturulma Tarihi: Mart 07, 2009 00:00

ISTANBUL - The use of Turkish ports for the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq appears to be one of the most important items in the agenda of the Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton's visit to Ankara this weekend.

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The Turkish side expects Clinton to raise the issue, which will start the official talks on procedure, as the government has made clear it is willing to assist United States in its exit strategy from Iraq. Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said mayn times Turkey wanted to help the U.S.

This falls short of giving carte blanche to Washington.

The criteria that will be decisive on the actual details of the withdrawal will be "public sensitivity."

The passage of troops and military equipment should be made without offending Turkish public opinion, as the whole endeavor will be transparent and covered intensively by the press, according to a Turkish official who spoke to Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on the condition of anonymity. The Turkish side might come up with certain restrictions, such as limiting the number of U.S. military personal permitted on Turkish territory at a given time.

Atlantic cooperation

The Turkish side will also warn the United States to the necessary precautions to avoid military equipment and ammunition falling into the wrong hands; namely those of the Kurds in northern Iraq and the terrorist organization PKK.

Contrary to press reports, the Turkish side is not expecting Clinton to ask Turkey to send more troops to Afghanistan. "The Turkish position is well known. It is out of question for Turkey to increase its troop levels or send its troops to the south of the country for combat purposes," a high level official told the Daily News. As such Clinton is not expected to make such a request. The U.S Secretary of State might ask, however, for increased support in humanitarian assistance, to which Turkey is more likely give a more positive response.

Another issue the Turkish side expects to be a matter of discussion is the Atlantic cooperation. France is expected to rejoin the military wing of NATO and Turkey expects the alliance to discuss what that would entail. The French view that consent of the Alliance members is not required for its return is not accepted by the Turkish side, as the French government wishes to get the two top military posts, which actually necessitates the approval of member states. As the French are known to have asked for the mediation of the American side on that matter, Ankara expects Clinton to raise the issue.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and relations with Iran and Syria are other topics which the two sides are expected to go over during discussions. The diversification of energy suppliers and routes, as well as the Cyprus issue, are also on the agenda.

Armenians’ claims of genocide

The possibility of the recognition by the U.S. Congress of Armenians claims of genocide on April 24, seen by the Armenians as the anniversary of the 1915 events, will undoubtedly be an issue of discussion. The Turkish side will brief Clinton on the reconciliation process between Turkey and Armenia with a clear emphasis that recognition by Congress, or through a presidential statement as pledged by President Barack Obama during his election campaign, will hamper a historic opportunity to mend fences between the two countries.

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