Phillip Gordon, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, spoke at a hearing of the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Europe Tuesday where he insisted any notion that Turkey had turned its back on the West was unfounded, particularly in the wake of a high-level meeting between US President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
During the hearing, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), also co-chairman of the US Congressional Caucus on US-Turkish Relations and Turkish Americans, said numerous articles have recently suggested that NATO member Turkey is turning away from the West.
“For me, it’s very clear that Turkey is assuming a regional policy. If someone would [have] come up five years ago and said that Turkey would drive a great rapprochement process with Armenia or would implement a democratization process concerning its Kurdish population, few among us would have believed that. In my opinion, the benefits of Turkey conducting equal relations with its neighbors for the US and the West outweigh its harms,” Wexler was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.
Wexler, who chaired the subcommittee hearing, asked Gordon if he believed Turkey’s foreign policy orientation was shifting away from the West. Gordon responded, saying that Turkey has been playing “a more active role in its region and seeking a very important role.”
“I believe that thinking that Turkey has turned its back to its decades-long cooperation with NATO, the US and Europe is an incorrect perception,” Gordon was quoted as saying by Anatolia. Highlighting that the meeting between Obama and Erdogan took a few hours, he said, “This is not a sign showing that a country is moving away from the US.”
Ankara and Washington may have different views on certain issues, Gordon said, adding that Obama and Erdogan discussed a series of issues including the two countries’ approaches to Iran, Israel and Syria during their Dec. 7 meeting at the White House.
Gordon continued, saying that it is also not possible to say that Turkey, which is continuing its bid to become a member of the EU, is moving away from Europe. “However, it is a fact that Turkey is continuing to be a close partner for us with its […] big and important cooperation on a regional and global scale.”
Following his meeting with Erdogan earlier this month, Obama voiced his appreciation of the role played by Turkey in contributing to the maintenance of global peace.
Erdogan’s visit was also used as an opportunity to launch a joint initiative aimed at boosting trade and investment ties between the two countries. The initiative is being touted by supporters of Turkey in Washington as another concrete sign of the mutual desire to diversify the strong political and military cooperation between the two allies and make their partnership more substantial.
Commentaries in Turkish newspapers widely described the White House meeting as a meeting that strengthened Erdogan’s political position inside Turkey due to Obama’s clear remarks in support of the Erdoğan government’s democratization initiative and of Turkey’s fight against terrorism.