Erdoğan-Obama meeting sign of close dialogue, US official says

March 22, 2012, Thursday/ 18:07:00

A planned meeting between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Barack Obama during next week’s nuclear summit in Seoul will be a chance for the two leaders to showcase their “close dialogue and perfect relations,” a US State Department official said on Wednesday.

Michael Hammer, acting assistant secretary for public affairs, said during a press conference on Wednesday that the meeting would reaffirm the US’s resolve to work with Turkey on important regional issues such as the crisis in Syria and Iran’s nuclear program, the Anatolia news agency reported on Thursday. Hammer offered America’s condolences for the 12 Turkish soldiers who were killed during a recent helicopter crash in Afghanistan. The present NATO mission in Afghanistan, Hammer said, has been a costly but necessary effort to reduce the ability of Al-Qaeda to operate internationally. Turkey presently has about 1,800 troops deployed for non-combat operations in Afghanistan and leads NATO operations in the central province of Kabul.

Hammer also mentioned growing cooperation between the US and NATO ally Turkey on the worsening crisis in Syria, saying that the US would back a six-point plan that had been the subject of lengthy discussion between the US, Turkey and other “Friends of Syria” nations who oppose the crackdown of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. The plan provides six steps for agreeing on a ceasefire and achieving a political transition away from the present regime.

Turkey and Washington have become close allies in the past year as the turbulent political waters of the Arab Spring have found the two powers in close agreement over promoting fledging democratic states, strengthening a fragile peace in Iraq and isolating regional pariah Iran. “We appreciate Turkey’s opinions and efforts in areas where we have common interests, and together we try to find the best solutions to any problems at hand,” Hammer said. Hammer said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, have held frequent talks over developments in the Middle East, and said the State Department hopes to see close cooperation between the two continue in the future.

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