Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at the U.S. two days after meeting Vice President Joe Biden, suggesting scant progress in reconciling the two nations’ approaches to the war in Syria.
“I’m always meeting with them but I stick to what I’ve said,” Erdogan said at a conference for a women’s advocacy group in Istanbul today. “They have only one sensitivity: oil.”
The message contrasts with that given by U.S. officials accompanying Biden on his three-day visit to Turkey, which included a meeting with Erdogan on Nov. 22 that lasted almost four hours. While the two nations differ on tactics for Syria, they’ve come to agree on the major objectives of the fight against Islamic State, senior administration officials briefing reporters said, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the talks.
Erdogan’s criticism today was seconded by the Turkish ruling party’s foreign policy chief, Yasin Aktay, who spoke in an interview on A Haber television.
“When oil gets touched, then the West starts to raise its voice,” Aktay said. U.S. policy in the region has been “a complete fiasco,” he said.
Turkish officials have placed conditions for offering fuller military cooperation with the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State. They include devising a plan to bring down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the establishment of a safe zone within Syrian territory, and enforcement of a no-fly zone.
With President Barack Obama vowing to scale down U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, the administration has been reluctant to commit to any such measures, which may mean confrontation with the Assad government. Compounding the Turkish-U.S. split, U.S. operations against Islamic State initially focused exclusively on Iraq, even as the group captured much of the territory on Syria’s border with Turkey.
The failure of past U.S. interventions in the region has made Turkey’s role more important, according to Aktay.
“Everyone wants Turkey to be more effective in the region, because those who’ve intervened have done nothing good,” he said. “Turkey is in a struggle against Islamic State but we want the right methods. The wrong method will create more Islamic States.”
Source: Bloomberg / Nov. 24, 2014