The Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in New York on Tuesday and will likely discuss Ankara’s deteriorating relationship with its former ally Israel, as well as the new order in the Middle East in the wake of widespread revolts.
Leaders from around the world will hold talks as the 66th session of United Nations General Assembly is underway in New York.
According to Today’s Zaman, a Turkish newspaper, Erdogan is expected to attend twenty bilateral meetings with other global leaders and also participate in a number of multinational meetings.
The relationship between Ankara and Israel reached an all-time low last year after Israeli commandoes attacked a Turkish-led flotilla which was transporting goods to Gaza – in breach of a naval blockade. The incident led to the deaths of nine Turkish activists.
Dilshod Achilov, a professor of political science at East Tennessee State University, and an expert on the Middle East, told International Business Times: “The U.S. has been stepping up its efforts to mediate between both Israel and Turkey -- its critical allies in the region.”
Achilov noted that Erdogan will likely defend his three demands related to the flotilla attack: a formal apology from Israel for the incident; compensation to the families of flotilla victims; and a lifting of the blockade of Gaza.
Israeli officials have refused to apologize for the incident, leading Turkey to recall its ambassador, freeze all military agreements, and apply its own sanctions against the Jewish state.
On the other hand, Israel would like to re-normalize its relations with Turkey, one of its very few friends in the Middle East. Moreover, the emergence of a potentially anti-Israel regime in post-Mubarak Egypt makes this such a reconciliation more urgent.
“Ergodan is also expected to defend Turkey's recent decision to increase its military/naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Achilov added.
The issue of Palestine is also likely to occupy Erdogan’s time. Turkey has urged Washington to support the recognition of Palestine as a free and independent sovereign state, while the U.S. thinks Israel should have a say in this matter.
Separately, Erdogan is also expected to speak to Obama about Syria and what kind of multinational efforts should be taken against President Bashar al-Aasad, after months of a brutal crackdown against anti-government protesters in that country.
Thousands of Syrian refugees have poured into eastern Turkey to escape Assad’s troops.
“Erdogan is expected to collaborate on a peaceful resolution in Syria -- Turkey is not expected to support any military intervention to Syria at this time,” Achilov noted.
Erdogan will address the UN General Assembly on Thursday -- the focus of his speech is expected to be the ongoing famine in Somalia and Ethiopia.
The Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will also attend the UN session and is expected to meet with his counterparts, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the British Foreign Secretary William Hague.