Experts: US-Turkey Relations Are Near Breaking Point

US President Donald Trump reaches to shake Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's hand before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 21, 2017 in New York City. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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The US Atlantic Council has released a new document on US-Turkey relations, “From Alliance to Crisis”, which laments Washington and Ankara’s “cold shoulders”, but suggests that diplomatic reset and compromises will be enough to save the Turkish-American alliance. Turkish experts, however, have drawn increasing attention to the deep roots of what they call a “political crisis” between the US and Turkey.

Turkish Armed Forces retired General Ahmet Yavuz has noted that the crisis in relations between Ankara and Washington is not ancient, and that the tensions surrounding the American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been imprisoned in Turkey since October 2016, are only the tip of the iceberg.

“The political crisis is manifested periodically in various spheres of cooperation between Turkey and the US… Pastor Brunson is yet another obvious manifestation. The US, although on a different scale but at the same time, is targeting Russia, Iran and Turkey. On the one hand, the US wants to continue cooperation with these countries [with the exception of Iran] and, on the other hand, they try as much as possible and in various ways to pressure them,” the retired Turkish general said.

“We do not have all the information on the Brunson case, but the US position on this issue is unacceptable from all points of view: Washington’s approach is treating Turkey as a colony, stating the need for the use of punishment against Ankara. This is aggravating the situation even more because there are intergovernmental legal relationships,” he continued.

Yavuz believes that as long as the US does not take real steps towards improving the situation on issues, such as the extradition of Islamic propagator Fethullah Gulen, accused of being behind the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, it is not worth waiting for Ankara to make the first steps.

If the Turkish authorities decide to react strictly to US actions, a decision can be taken on the closure of the [NATO] military base at Incirlik and suspension on the use of the radar at Kurecik,” explained Yavuz, adding that for now, the US is not struggling to solve existing problems.

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Meanwhile, Professor Hasan Unal of the Faculty of International Relations of the University of Ankara, has stressed that the crisis is inevitable because the US has considered Turkey a colony, not an ally since the beginning of the Cold War.

“If you look at the situation in a structural way, it becomes obvious that Turkish-American relations have reached a turning point. Turkish and US positions do not coincide on virtually any issue. Even in foreign policy matters, which are very important for Turkey, the United States applies a policy hostile to our country. […] We can no longer talk about Turkey and the US as allies. […] The US since the Cold War era has not considered Turkey as an ally but as a colony, so sooner or later the crisis in relations would inevitably manifest itself,” Hasan Unal said.

Among the problems in bilateral relations, he cited the withdrawal of the Turkish military from Cyprus, the lack of support for Turkey in the Aegean and, above all, US support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK/YPG] to create an independent Kurdish state .

The professor continued: “Instead of using diplomatic methods, the US has opted to push, which could lead to a break in relations.”

According to Hasan Unal, for Turkish positions to be strengthened, Ankara must tighten its relations with Syria, Egypt and Israel, and in order to circumvent the crisis, Turkey must follow a policy contrary to Washington.

“We have to show America that we do not fear threats, that we need a decisive and solid position and a well thought-out chess strategy … The US understands the language of force and pressure and if Turkey does not show itself to be solid, it could suffer huge losses and could give the US the possibility for future pressure in the region,” concluded the analyst.

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