WASHINGTON—The Financial Times reported Sunday that President Barack Obama personally warned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that unless Turkey changes its position on Israel and Iran, it would not be able to obtain the American drone aircraft it wants to buy. On Monday Politico reported that the White House was denying the ultimatum claim.
Ankara wants the aircraft, such as the missile bearing Reaper, to attack the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after the US pulls out of Iraq.
“The president has said to Erdogan that some of the actions that Turkey has taken have caused questions to be raised on the Hill [Congress] . . . about whether we can have confidence in Turkey as an ally. That means that some of the requests Turkey has made of us, for example in providing some of the weaponry that it would like to fight the PKK, will be harder for us to move through Congress,” reported the Financial Times quoting a senior administration official.
“Washington was deeply frustrated when Turkey voted against United Nations sanctions on Iran in June. When the leaders met later that month at the G20 summit in Toronto, Mr Obama told Mr. Erdogan that the Turks had failed to act as an ally in the UN vote. He also called on Ankara to cool its rhetoric about an Israeli raid that killed nine Turks on a flotilla bearing aid for Gaza,” said the FT article.
“They need to show that they take seriously American national security interests,” the administration official told Financial Times. The official also added that Washington was looking at Turkish conduct and would then assess if there were “sufficient efforts that we can go forward with their request.”
On Monday, Politico, citing White House pool reporter Jonathan Weisman of The Wall Street Journal, reported that Obama “emphatically denied” the ultimatum claims of the Financial Times story.
“The president and Erdogan did speak about 10 days ago, and they talked about Iran and the flotilla and other issues related to that,” White House spokesman Bill Burton told the press aboard Air Force One Monday. “We obviously have an ongoing dialogue with them. But no such [arms] ultimatum was issued.”
“There’s no ultimatum,” Burton added.
“Turkish diplomatic sources also say there has never been any sort of U.S. arms ultimatum, although they concede Ankara’s standing in Congress has been hurt as a result of Turkish-Israeli diplomatic tensions in the wake of Gaza flotilla violence in May. That tension has eased somewhat in recent weeks. Turkey and Israel agreed earlier this month to the formation of a U.N. panel to oversee investigations of the Gaza flotilla violence,” reported Politico.