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Obama: “I will talk to Papandreou over name issue again” May 29, 2011

Posted by Yilan in America, Macedonia, US, USA.
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“Macedonia is a perfect example. Whenever I meet with the Macedonian President, we are talking about the name issue. This frustrates me. I promise You President Ivanov that I will again speak to Papandreou on the issue. I believe he is also ready for a solution”, said Obama.

President Gjorge Ivanov took part late Friday at the working dinner of participants at the 17. meeting of Presidents of Central European States with United States President Barack Obama, MIA reports from Warsaw.

Ivanov stressed Republic of Macedonia was the only country in the world to have additional condition for UN accession, as well as the only country to have additional condition for NATO membership and EU integration, saying this condition is irrational and absurd.

“As a country we have met all conditions for NATO accession and continuation of our EU integration process. Republic of Macedonia was the only country emerging from the former state without conflicts and wars”, stressed Ivanov.

He added that Macedonia enhanced its eternal tradition of coexistence and tolerance with the Ohrid Accord, which represents the most successful agreement in the region, whereas the country has built a unique model of integration without assimilation, producing regional stability.

“The Republic of Macedonia wants a solution. Macedonia demonstrated its constructiveness prior to the Bucharest summit. PM Papandreou should be assisted in making a concrete step forward”, said Ivanov.

U.S. President Obama stressed Central and Eastern European countries have achieved remarkable success they should be proud of.

“Macedonia is a perfect example. Whenever I meet with the Macedonian President, we are talking about the name issue. This frustrates me. I promise You President Ivanov that I will again speak to Papandreou on the issue. I believe he is also ready for a solution”, said Obama.

He added all countries from the region of Central and Eastern Europe have individual problems – ethnic, political, economic.

“We all have different problems. We are imperfect creatures, but the most important thing is that differences and problems are settled in a peaceful manner, through political means, dialogue and institutions”, said Obama.

According to him, the most important thing is to keep the NATO and EU doors open for all who want to join and meet criteria.

“My message to everyone on this table is – be proud of your progress, we are behind you, we will support you. We only ask one thing in return – work together with us towards democracy, freedom and common objectives. Your problems come to me through our ambassadors, the State Department and Washington. I assure you this evening’s talks will yield results”, underlined U.S. President Obama.

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Has Obama forgotten Turkey? May 28, 2011

Posted by Yilan in America, Turkey, USA.
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As the aging regimes of the Middle East fall one by one in the face of the political tsunami that has washed across the region, there can be little doubt that Turkey’s foreign policy position lately has managed to attract much attention across the world.

Turkey is like a star that can talk to both the East and the West, as it manages relations with the European Union and normal ties with Israel. Just a few signs of this generally shining tableau include support by 151 nations for Turkey’s candidacy for a spot on the UN Security Council, ongoing EU membership accession talks, the holding of the position of General Secretary for the Islamic Conference Organization, and Turkey’s appearance and actions on a wide variety and breadth of international platforms. Some of these platforms include the Arab League, the African Union, the Gulf Union, and the Conference of Undeveloped Countries.

When Turkey — which had for many years followed more of a “wait and see” set of policies — started taking active steps not only towards solving its own Cyprus, Armenian, and Kurdish problems, but also in trying to find solutions to giant international problems involving Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, it was inevitable that all eyes would turn to Turkey.

Despite the good intentions driving these efforts on both domestic and international fronts, no real concrete results have been achieved. And there have been questions posed as to why it is Turkey who is getting so involved in issues that outsize it. Perhaps the lack of results from the efforts made on the Iran, Syria-Israel and Lebanon fronts has helped Turkey to see the limitations of its own influence.

But just as these efforts — some of which have inspired jealousy, others of which have sparked competition — have brought about concrete economic profit, they have also allowed Turkey to really perceive its own soft strength, of which it was not aware until now. And thanks to all this, the image of a passive Turkey in the region and in the world has changed.

Turkey has turned into a global actor whose actions and whose leaders’ speeches are eagerly awaited and closely watched. Some of the greatest contributions made to this process — a process in which factors from the nation’s dynamic civilian society to its economic performance, from its historical depth to its experiences of democracy — have been made by the trio President Gül, Prime Minister Erdoğan, and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu. The most concrete leg of the new set of policies being followed by Turkey — which cover everything from foreign trade to tourism figures — has been the “zero problems with neighbors” policy. The results brought about by this particular policy are clear enough when one observes that in 2008, Russia became Turkey’s biggest foreign trade partner, or that Turkey increased trade levels with its neighbors sevenfold. Up until now though, we have really just judged by rule of thumb how Turkey’s neighbors view the new Turkey, and how they perceive the changes here.

In order to bring clarity to this issue, a piece of research into the perceptions of Turkey by intellectuals from seven of our nation’s neighboring countries has been very helpful. The study was overseen by Professor Savaş Genç of Fatih University.

The details from this study were reflected in yesterday’s Turkish media; the results appear striking and call for thought by politicians throughout Turkey. The vast majority of intellectuals from Turkey’s neighboring countries do believe that Turkey has been very active of late in foreign policy, and that Turkey has increased its weightiness on the global stage. They attribute this positive change in foreign policy to three basic factors: the AK Party rule, the EU accession process and liberalization of the economy. The most underscored aspect of Turkey’s changed foreign policy is its balanced approach to both the East and the West. Among those who believe that Turkey has edged closer to the Islamic world, especially among those neighboring countries which are not majority Muslim, there is doubt about the sustainability of this set of politics. It is very meaningful not only that a strengthened and democratized Turkey sees opportunity even in Armenia, but that Turkey is perceived by so many as a port in any disastrous storm.

In the research carried out by Fatih University, one of the most striking results was the fact that 62% of the respondents said they saw Turkey as a model for the rest of the Middle East. What makes this particular result even more meaningful is that it completely dovetails with results from research done in 2010 in Arab countries by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV). In the TESEV research, 66% of respondents said they saw Turkey as a regional model.

What is strange is that these realities — which are visible to the naked eye and which are verified by so much detailed research — do not seem evident in Turkish society itself. Also, there is the fact that despite all this, the West seems resolute in ignoring the new Turkey. While Europe’s rough and rude barriers to Turkey are already evident and clear, how is it that when US President Obama describes his Middle East vision, he could talk about Indonesia, India, and even Brazil, but not mention Turkey? Why is it that the same Obama — who made his first diplomatic visit a visit to Ankara — seems now to have forgotten Turkey? In light of the critical and new developments in places like Libya, Iran and Syria, Turkey needs to think about how to not only maintain, but also develop the valuable credit it has gained on the global stage.

Many Turks see US as greatest threat January 16, 2011

Posted by Yilan in America, Turkey, US.
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A new survey finds that 42.6% of Turks see Washington as the “greatest external threat”.

 

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A woman attends the funeral of her son, a Kurdish rebel allegedly killed by Turkish soldiers. Many Turks view the US as not doing enough about Kurdish rebels operating out of northern Iraq. 

In a recent poll by Metropoll, which is alleged to have connections with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), 23.7% of the 1,500 respondents cited Israel as the country’s biggest threat. However, more than 42% cited the United States.

In comparison, 3% of Turks named Iran, 2.3% said Greece, 2.1% cited Iraq and 1.7% said Russia.

The survey appeared to give credence to the frequently espoused view that Turkey, a longtime NATO member, is drifting away from the West. Since the AKP first took power in 2002, the party has been accused of harboring a secret plan to establish an Islamic state within Turkey, orienting the country eastward, and increasing relations with Iran.

Little evidence has appeared to substantiate this. The AKP’s plans are likely exaggerated as the world struggles to create a new vocabulary to discuss the rapid changes taking place with the rise of emerging countries and power shifts within Turkey.

“It is no longer possible to sustain the current world order, which, based as it is on a skewed notion of centre-periphery relations, merely produces injustice and inequality,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote recently in an op-ed for New Europe magazine.

While the AKP espouses a foreign policy of “zero problems” with its neighbours, such as Iran, and seeks to build a range of largely trade-based relationships around the world, Turkey still maintains that it is a Western partner.

Why then did Turks name the United States as their number one threat?

The results of the survey could stem from a belief that the US is only the country with the capabilities and presence in the region to hurt Turkey, some analysts said.

Klaus Jurgens, a columnist for the local newspaper Today’s Zaman, says he is concerned by the survey’s results. “Is it a general hostility, or is [it] that the US does not support Turkey?” he said.

Many Turks perceive the US as not doing enough to aid the country’s fight against Kurdish rebels who operate from bases in northern Iraq.

Jurgens says the perceived threat from the US comes, in part, from a failure by the Turkish government to explain it foreign policy adequately to the public.

 

“This is a chance for the government to wake up and tell them we live in an international community,” Jurgens said.

According to Metropoll, the main concern of Turkish citizens is the economy. Jurgens cited democratisation as Turk’s second chief concern. Understanding foreign policy was a distant third or fourth priority. “The US as a threat, [Turks] would know better only if someone tells them,” he said.

This is unlikely as the country begins an election year.

“Until after the next election in June, the prime minister will focus on domestic issues,” Jurgens said.

Turkey’s Biggest Threat? Ask Uncle Sam January 16, 2011

Posted by Yilan in America, Turkey, US, USA.
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Turkey’s neighborhood is often considered a bit rough round the edges: conflict-riven Iraq to the south, nuclear-aspirant Iran next door, the restless Caucasian states and the Russian bear to the East. Even to the west, in New Europe, the bordering Balkan states have been plagued by periodic conflict.

Turkish military officers here used to — and often still do — say as much in presentations about regional threats to schoolchildren in ‘national security’ lessons that form part of the state curriculum.

But ask Turks to name their biggest external threat and the source is a long way — and seven time zones — from the country’s borders: the United States.

According to a wide-ranging survey carried out by the Ankara-based MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center in December, some 43% of Turks said they perceive the U.S. as the country’s biggest threat, followed by Israel, with 24%. Just 3% of those surveyed considered Iran a major threat.

This trend isn’t new. Though the U.S. is Turkey’s strategic ally, it has become steadily more unpopular here, receiving the lowest favorability score from Turks in every Global Attitudes survey conducted between 2006 and 2009 by the Washington-based Pew Research Center.

Still the survey from MetroPOLL — which quizzed 1,504 people in 31 provinces in December — appears to mark a sharp acceleration in antipathy towards American and particularly Israeli policy.

“This is the highest ratio ever on the external threat question among our surveys,” says Professor Özer Sencar, chairman of MetroPOLL, which is affiliated to the governing AK-party. “The U.S. foreign politics since the Iraqi invasion, the war in Afghanistan, repeated Armenian bills in the U.S. Congress and the negative statements that Turkish leaders make about the U.S. and Israel play a major role in this perception.”

Predictably, hostility toward Israeli policy spiked after the Mavi Marmara affair, which saw nine activists killed after Israeli commandos boarded a flotilla seeking to end the blockade of Gaza. The MetroPOLL survey says 63% of Turks now want to freeze diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.

Back in the Cold War days, Ankara’s allegiance was clearer — a NATO member which bordered the Soviet Union, it was a staunch ally of Washington.

Turkey’s still a steadfast NATO member: it has the security group’s second-largest military force and in November formally agreed to house a NATO missile shield, despite public protest. But with the Islamist-leaning government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan sweeping to power in 2002, and still comfortably the most popular party here, Ankara’s foreign policy priorities have shifted significantly in the past decade.

Partly as a product of Mr. Erdogan’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davatoglu, who pursued a ‘peace with all neighbors’ policy, relations with old rivals Greece and Armenia — as well as Iran — have warmed. According to MetroPOLL, the number of Turks considering Greece and Armenia the principal threat to national security is now just 2% and 1%, respectively.

The perceived reorienting of Turkey’s foreign policy has ruffled feathers in Washington and Brussels, despite Ankara’s denials that its priorities have changed. The MetroPOLL survey will be cited by those who say Turkey’s deteriorating ties with the U.S. and Israel and closer relations with Iran demonstrate that NATO’s sole Muslim-majority member is moving away from the West.

McNamara: US, European allies must put pressure on Greece December 25, 2010

Posted by Yilan in America, Macedonia, US.
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It is obvious that Greece is the obstacle in the Macedonia issue. Athens does not observe its earlier promise it would not block the country’s efforts to join NATO. Furthermore, the Americans and the Europeans are not putting sufficient pressure on Greece to solve this problem. Therefore, the guilt for the lack of a solution to the problem can be directed to a number of sides, says Sally McNamara, senior policy analyst at the Washington-based “Heritage Foundation”, in an interview with Macedonian Television.

“It is difficult to understand why Europeans support Greece. The Greeks have violated the rules, they also violated the Eurozone rules. This is a country that was on the verge of bankruptcy, but received enormous aid from its European partners. Therefore, one cannot understand why Europeans did not use this as cover to explain to Greece that they should change their conduct. However, it is obvious they are not prepared to do this”, says McNamara.

According to her, negative consequences are possible from the infinite delay of Macedonia’s NATO and EU accession.

“Macedonia is a good ally and takes part in peacekeeping missions, but is also a good regional player. There are negative implications if the country remains outside of NATO. Macedonia can say – if you do not want to, then we will not join the Alliance, we will turn to other alliances. People can become disillusioned and the region can be destabilized. There is really no positive side to this other than Greek authorities getting points among its electorate. Greece is doing this for internal reasons and it should not be supported”, stresses the Heritage analyst.

Pertaining to the possibility of more active US involvement in the row’s settlement, McNamara says that unlike former President Bush, who invested a lot in Macedonia and its NATO integration, the incumbent Obama administration does not seem quite interested, although it can put pressure.

“Democrats are not interested in the Balkans. Obama’s administration is currently not much interested in the Alliance’s enlargement at the Balkans. It is also interesting how little is Secretary of State Clinton involved in the problem. She is saying how big of a friend she is to Macedonia, has visited the country twice, showing support in her speeches, but it would be good if we see more efforts on her part”, states McNamara.

She believes it is possible to stop Greek blocks and blackmails if all European countries, United States, Canada and all NATO member-states join together and tell Greece that is has to stop and commit to the UN process for the issue’s settlement.

“Diplomatic pressure must be put on Greece. If Macedonia joins NATO, the name row will be settled in a much easier way. That is why I think Greece is counterproductive in the issue”, underlines Heritage analyst Sally McNamara.