The focus of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s critical visit to Turkey and then Greece over the weekend was on the Gaza issue. But since the visitor was one of the critical decision-makers of the US, which still claims to be the “gendarme” of the world, many issues were on the table, from the Ukraine issue to NATO’s security.
It is possible to glean clues about what was discussed during Blinken’s visit from both the US Secretary of State’s social media posts and brief statements by US spokespersons. The highlights are as follows;
UKRAINE ISSUE; PRAISE FOR GREECE, SILENCE FOR TURKEY
First of all, it is noteworthy that Blinken, who specifically mentioned the Ukraine issue during his visit to Greece and praised the Greek government’s stance on this issue, did not bring up the same issue in his statements in Turkey. Obviously, the US side is not as enthusiastic as Ankara on the Ukrainian grain corridor issue, which the AK Party government is trying to re-establish.
SILENCE ALSO PREVAILS ON THE F-16 ISSUE
It is also noteworthy that neither Blinken nor his spokesperson mentioned the issue of Turkey’s F-16 procurement and modernization in public statements.
Apparently, the US administration was disturbed by President Erdoğan’s statements following his recent phone call with US President Biden. After that phone call, Erdoğan said that Biden “promised to take care of” the F-16 issue in return for Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s NATO membership. This statement must have put the Biden administration in trouble with the US Congress, the final approval authority on F-16s, as Blinken preferred not to directly address this issue. Sometimes, statements made in order to gain ground in domestic politics can also make things that could have been “not” happen.
This must be the issue. While Blinken did not mention the F-16s at all, he made statements after his visit to Turkey that he expected Sweden’s NATO membership to be realized very soon. The Greek press, on the other hand, writes that the American minister also brought the F-35 fighter jets to be sold to Greece to the table during the F-16 negotiations. Apparently, since the Washington administration was unable to guarantee Congressional approval for the F-16s, it chose to continue the negotiations in Ankara with a “stick”. That “stick” is the F-35s to be sold to Greece. Let’s see if the scenario in which Turkey does not get F-16s but Greece gets new F-35s will enable the AK Party government to speed up the issue of Sweden’s NATO membership in the Turkish Parliament. We will see.
THE GAZA ISSUE; AGREEING TO DISAGREE
The Gaza issue is still a “minefield” between Ankara and Washington;
Just before Blinken’s arrival in Turkey, the US side announced that it would offer a 10 million dollar reward for the capture of 3 Hamas leaders it claims to be in Turkey. The timing is indeed significant; the US could not have made its deep disagreement with Turkey on Hamas so clear otherwise.
The difference between Turkey’s position, which calls for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza, and that of the US, which does not talk much about a ceasefire, but only prioritizes “preventing the conflict from expanding beyond Gaza”, was also revealed again during Blinken’s visit.
From Blinken’s statements, it is possible to conclude that cooperation with Turkey on Gaza can only be discussed when Israel ends its military operations in the region and a political solution to the problem is found. By saying that Turkey could play a role in the reconstruction of Gaza, Blinken also extended a “branch of peace” to the AK Party government, which prioritizes the construction sector in its economic policies. Blinken’s visit seems to have reached a conclusion that the US and Turkey “agree to disagree” on many issues…