News / Middle East

Turkish PM Heads to US to Discuss Syria, Other Regional Issues

FILE - Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
FILE - Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Dorian Jones
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Thursday. The two leaders agree that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go, after two years of violence that has left more than 70,000 people dead. But, Obama and Erdogan have sharp disagreements on their approaches to Syria and other key Middle East issues.

Following Saturday's car bombings in the Turkish town of Reyhanli, Prime Minister Erdogan is expected to press President Obama to take tougher stance against Damascus.

Sinan Ulgen, head of the Istanbul research institute Edam, says the Turkish prime minister has specific demands he will present to President Obama.

"Turkey [will] try to convince the U.S. to have a more interventionist attitude towards Syria, such as establishing a no-fly zone," said Ulgen. "That could change the balance of forces on the ground. I think he will substantiate his argument by telling that unless that is done, there is a real possibility for the Syrian conflict to pull in countries like Turkey."

But with Moscow and Washington working together to organize a conference aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict, some observers say expectations are low in Ankara of any immediate change in U.S. policy.

Still, analyst Ulgen says Ankara will be looking beyond the current diplomatic efforts.

"We should give a chance to this political process that has been set afoot by this latest Russia-U.S. summit, but nonetheless if we don't get any traction on this front, then the U.S. should reconsider shifting its position on Syria. That will be the message of the Turkish leadership in Washington," he said.

Observers close to Turkey's ruling AK party say they expect President Obama to be looking to Prime Minister Erdogan to help facilitate the current diplomatic efforts by persuading the Syrian opposition coalition to join the planned peace conference.

Ankara is among the strongest supporters of the Syrian opposition and opposes talks that would include President Assad or any of his close supporters.  Washington may be looking for a softening of that stance.

The Syrian opposition is set to decide at a meeting in Istanbul next week whether to participate in the peace conference.

Another potentially thorny issue is that of Israeli-Turkish relations. The two key U.S. allies are engaged in rapprochement efforts following the killing of nine Turks in fighting with Israeli commandos aboard a Palestinian aid ship that tried to breach Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2010.

Asli Aydintasbas, diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, says President Obama will be looking to expedite the current rapprochement.

"[It is] very clear, the Israeli apology brokered by President Obama for the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident has impacted Turkish-U.S. relations positively. In many ways, Obama and Erdogan have had a good working relationship. But the tension in Israeli-Turkish ties has always been a strain on Washington, on its ability to work with Turkey," said Aydintasbas.

Iraq is also predicted to be on the agenda of the talks between U.S. president and Turkish prime minister. Rising sectarian violence in Iraq is straining relations between Ankara and Baghdad, with Erdogan's government and that of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accusing each other of inciting the violence.

Semih Idiz is diplomatic correspondent for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet.

"Iraq does remain a delicate issue, of course. There is still a strain between the Maliki government and Ankara, even though America is trying repair that, too. So I think Washington will try to convince Turkey to open up to Maliki and Turkey will try to convince Washington to use its pressure on Maliki to be a little more fairer and gentler on the Sunnis of Iraq," said Idiz.

Erdogan's Washington visit is expected to bolster the deepening relations and cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey. But, observers say, while they may share similar goals in the region, differences remain, and the visit's success may depend on how well those differences are managed.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs