Thursday, July 8, 2010

DTN News: U.S. President Barack Obama Sees Turkey Turning Eastward If Snubbed By EU

Defense News: DTN News: U.S. President Barack Obama Sees Turkey Turning Eastward If Snubbed By EU
Source: DTN News / Reuters - Reporting by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Peter Graff
(NSI News Source Info) MILAN, Italy - July 8, 2010: Turkey could end up seeking alliances outside the West ifthe European Union keeps it dangling over its bid for membership, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a newspaper interview on Thursday.
Obama told Italy's Corriere della Sera the United States believed it would be wise for the European Union to accept Turkey, and saw reluctance to let Turkey in as a factor behind changes seen in its traditionally West-facing foreign policy.
"I recognise that this raises strong feelings in Europe and I do not think the slow pace or European reluctance is the only or predominant factor at the root of some changes in the orientation recently observed in the Turkish attitude.
"But it is inevitably destined to play a role in how the Turkish people see Europe," Obama said. "If they do not feel themselves part of the European family, it is natural that they should end up looking elsewhere for alliances and affiliations."
Turkey's past secularist governments were wary of ties with Islamic neighbours in the East, and were firm Cold War allies of the West, due to a mistrust of communism and traditional rivalry with Russia over the Black Sea and Caucasus region.
But under Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan relations have warmed up considerably with neighbours like Iran and Syria, the wider Middle East, and post-Soviet countries, while a formerly close alliance with Israel has dwindled.
Ties with Israel are at the point of breaking following the killing of nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists during an Israeli military operation to stop a Gaza-bound aid convoy.
Critics say the trend in foreign policy reflects the AK party's Islamist roots, though the party sees itself as a Muslim version of Europe's conservative Christian Democrat parties.
The government says Turkey's commitment to the West is undiminished and critics are wrongly confusing efforts to build ties and find new markets for its growing economy with a change in orientation.
Obama called Turkey's attempt to mediate an accord with Iran on the nuclear issue "unfortunate," but said he understood its interest as an emerging power and neighbour of Iran.
Western powers rejected a deal negotiated by Turkey and Brazil for Iran to exchange some nuclear fuel abroad. Turkey and Brazil responded last month by becoming the only two countries to vote against sanctions on Iran in the U.N. Security Council.
Turkey's AK Party government entered negotiations to join the 27-member EU in 2005, but the process is at risk of grinding to a halt due to an impasse over the divided island of Cyprus.
Cyprus is an EU member and its Greek Cypriot government has stalled Turkey's bid to join because of its support for Turkish Cypriots, though Ankara now backs reunification of the island.
Turkey suspects some EU governments of using the Cyprus issue to keep the door shut because of doubts over letting a Muslim country join their "Christian club."
Obama spoke of the importance of strong relations with a strategic country at the crossroads between East and West.
"It is a NATO ally, its economy is expanding greatly," Obama said. "Furthermore, the fact that it is a democracy and a country that is mostly Islamic makes it a critically important model for other Muslim countries of the region."

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