President Obama on Turkey
Relations with the Turks have been a little strained since Ankara opposed the invasion of Iraq. Things were not helped by the Turkish desire to invite Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas to a friendly evening of coffee and nargile. But the foreign policy of President Bush is viewed as a myopic monogamy by President Obama, and Washington now wishes to polygamise US relations and ‘engage’ with such groups. Hamas can no longer be ignored if the Messiah-President is to restore peace to Israel, but he quite obviously cannot be seen to be supping with the devil himself. If all goes well, he can leave that to Prime Minister Erdogan and President Gül. Turkey is a NATO ally – the only Muslim country in the western alliance – and is viewed as a bridge between the Islamic East and the Christian West. And the US needs Turkish cooperation (ie troops) as they seek to address certain local difficulties in Iran and Afghanistan.
And so the President shall pussy-foot around the sensitivities. He shall turn a blind eye to the country’s internal constitutional issues and the Prime Minister’s autocratic tendencies; he shall promise to continue providing intelligence on the Kurds and the PKK; make a few positive noises about energy pipelines from Asia to Europe (without promising to foot the bill); and conveniently forget the congressional resolution that the Turkish massacre of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915-1923 was ‘genocide’.
And what can he offer Turkey in exchange?
Interestingly, at a time when EU member states are increasingly sceptical about Turkey joining the club, President Obama is positively effusive. He said during his visit to Prague: "The United States and Europe must approach Muslims as our friends, neighbours and partners in fighting injustice, intolerance and violence, forging a relationship based on mutual respect and mutual interest. Moving forward towards Turkish membership in the EU would be an important signal of your commitment to this agenda and ensure that we continue to anchor Turkey firmly in Europe." He understands that Turks are increasingly identifying with the rest of the Islamic world and taking hard their eternal postponement of entry to the EU.
But France and Germany are both opposed.
President Sarkozy said he had always been opposed to Turkey's EU entry: "I have been working hand-in-hand with President Obama but when it comes to the European Union it's up to member states of the European Union to decide," he told French TV. Chancellor Merkel said that while close links with Turkey were important, its future status in Europe was ‘still open for discussion’.
But President Obama is most desirous to see Turkey the 28th member of the Union. He, of course, does not have to worry about subsidising all their farms, the human rights issues, the lack of freedom of religion, the territorial disputes with Greek Cypriots, or the potential flood of cheap labour which will be unleashed across the continent through the free movement of people.
Conveniently, the President shall find Pope Benedict and the United Kingdom willing allies in this pursuit: it is (surprisingly) the Vatican's desire and that of both the Conservative and Labour parties to secure Turkish entry to the EU at the earliest opportunity.
Though quite why His Holiness and David Cameron are not listening to Edward Leigh on this matter is beyond Cranmer.