Turkey is greatly disappointed by the meeting between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and American President Barack Obama in Washington last week. Talk of Syria took up most of their time on Thursday, both during the day, and during dinner that night. The Turkish leader tried to explain his country’s position to his American counterpart by saying that the Syrian crisis is Turkey’s biggest challenge in decades. He also said that Ankara is requesting that Washington “As a friendly ally, play a larger role in contributing to changing the reality” on the ground in Syria.
According to a senior Turkish official close to those attending the meetings in Washington, “Obama remained firm and insisted on limiting the American role to two matters: humanitarian aid to the Syrian refugees and the countries hosting them, and the diplomatic sponsorship of the Syrian dialogue leading to putting an end to the violence and reaching a solution.”
On their part, American sources confirmed to the Kuwaiti newspaper Alrai that the American position was as told by the Turkish sources.
The Turkish official also said that Erdogan tactfully pointed out the “fluctuation” of the American position, addressing Obama during the dinner, which was attended by the foreign ministers of both counties, American John Kerry and Turkish Dawud Oglo. Without making eye contact with Kerry, he stated that the American Secretary of State had promised that the American plan for Syria aimed to “shift the military facts on the ground in favour of the opposition, in order for Bashar Al-Assad to read the writing on the wall and realise that there is no point of him staying in power and that the best solution for him was to step down” from authority.
Erdogan went on to say to Obama, “Today you are saying something different and the writing on the wall disappeared. You are now focusing on the conference in Geneva, which will be attended by Al-Assad’s men believing that their military position is strong and that they can continue, which means they will not make any concessions.”
Secondly, Erdogan pointed out Obama’s clear backing down from “the red lines he set in the event that the Al-Assad regime used chemical weapons.” The Turkish leader also said that “the credibility of allies calling for the removal of Al-Assad has gone down due to the American fluctuation, and it would be better for America to take any position rather than taking a position, only to back down from it later.”
The Turkish prime minister ended by saying that “NATO credibility is also being shaken. Turkey is a member of the alliance and has been clearly attacked (Al-Rayhana bombing) by Al-Assad, and the alliance did not rise to defend it.”
However, what was not mentioned by the Turkish official, but was added on by American officials who confirmed the Turkish story, was that Obama harshly responded to Erdogan saying that “Turkey never committed to any of the NATO positions that did not serve its national interests,” and that it stood “Against the war in Libya, despite the fact that civilians suffered massacres at the hands of Gaddafi’s forces, similar to those carried out by Al-Assad.” Moreover, Obama added that “Even in 2003, you did not let the American troops use the Incirlik Air Base during the war in Iraq.”
Obama considered the “NATO alliance to be strong, but each country acts within its own interests, especially when none of the member states are subjected to grave security threats requiring the alliance to take joint action to defend it.”
He also added that “The US is willing to participate in any multi-lateral military action to defend Turkey in the face of any danger, whether it be Syria or any other country, however, America will not do this alone, and will act as a member state. If the alliance moves, then American will move with it.” In another conversation, the American official reported that Obama hinted, “Not every problem in the world is our problem, but we are willing to contribute within the framework of international alliances or the UN.”
Obama ended by urging Erdogan to use his relations in Moscow to change its position on Syria. Obama said “Our relations with (Russian President) Vladimir (Putin) are not at its best, but they have great commercial interests with you, so maybe you can influence their decisions in this regard.”
Amid the American determination and insistence not to take any measures that may lead to a change in the situation in Syria, the Turkish official said that his country has become “dependent on building a regional alliancethat will fill the gap left by Washington’s absence.”
In this context, the Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz visited Turkey yesterday with an invitation by the Turkish President Abdullah Gul.
The Turkish official said that “Turkey and Saudi Arabia are working on resolving the Syrian crisis and forcing Al-Assad to step down as a prelude to engage in a national dialogue and to consider solutions for the post-Assad phase.
He concluded by saying that “There are many ideas proposed for discussion between the two countries on the Syrian crisis,” and “Ankara will fill Riyadh in on the gist of Erdogan’s meetings in Washington,” and “After the visit in America, Turkey is counting on its regional alliances to deal with the Syrian crisis.”