After the US-Turkey ties went through a very rocky path due to their differences on Syria, actions are needed to repair their traditional alliance in order to confront regional challenges, Turkish experts said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to meet his American counterpart Donald Trump in the White House on Nov. 13, a much-awaited visit aiming primarily to solve deep differences over the Syria war that strained bilateral ties.
The Turkish leader has promised to turn over a ‘new page’ in the US-Turkey ties by talking with Trump, who criticized Turkey for launching a cross-border offensive into northeastern Syria in early October.
Critics accused Trump of giving Erdogan a green light to launch the military operation against the US-supported Kurdish militia People’s Protection Units (YPG) by withdrawing American troops from the region. Ankara insisted it was targeting ‘terrorists’ which constitute a security threat to Turkey.
In the wake of international condemnation and threats by the US leader to ‘destroy the Turkish economy,’ Erdogan called a halt to the offensive following deals struck with both the United States and Russia, the main foreign players in Syria.
‘My counterpart is Trump. Just as we held necessary talks on the phone, we will also hold face-to-face meetings that will turn a new page in Turkey-US ties, a new milestone,’ Erdogan told reporters in Ankara.
After the US-Turkey deal was announced, Trump thanked Erdogan for backing off and suspended the largely symbolic economic sanctions previously imposed on Turkey.
Nevertheless, an undiplomatically worded letter in which Trump admonished Erdogan made ripples in Turkey and had adverse effects on the bilateral ties amid rising anti-American sentiment among Turks.
In the extraordinary message, the US president urged his Turkish counterpart not to be ‘a fool’ or a ‘tough guy’ and stop the offensive in Syria dubbed Peace Spring.
‘There is no friendship or enmity in international relations, there are interests that matter,’ said Mustafa Nail Alkan, professor of international relations in Ankara-based Haci Bayram Veli University.
‘The United States won’t and can’t give up easily its partnership with Turkey. Cool headed statements made in Washington underline the fact that the United States is not keen at all to lose Turkey,’ a regional power and NATO ally, argued this expert.
Alkan said the recent killing by US special forces of Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northern Syria, a mission for which Trump thanked several countries, including Turkey, would have a positive impact on the US-Turkish ties.
In light of the end of the Turkish incursion, Alkan predicted that the process of restoring the bilateral ties would follow the Trump-Erdogan meeting, a conclusion would benefit both countries.
The question remains open how the Turkish strongman will explain this overhaul to its own people while America’s popularity is sinking in Turkey, according to a recent survey by Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.
Three years ago, when Turks were asked to name countries posing a great threat to Turkey, 44 percent named the United States. This year the figure spiked to 81 percent, according to the survey.
Tulin Daloglu, a journalist and expert on US-Turkey relations, said the US requires Turkey’s assistance in achieving its regional goals.
‘The United States cannot successfully contain or impose sanctions on Iran in the absence of Turkey’s support and they would not wish to see Turkey moving closer to Russia,’ she said.
The US needs to do what’s required to keep a good relationship with their NATO partner, Turkey, Daloglu said.
Turkey and Russia have in recent years accomplished a remarkable rapprochement, arousing dissatisfaction of the US and other NATO allies toward Turkey following the latter’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems despite the opposition from the US and NATO.