U.S.-Turkey Relations Are Better But Still Strained: QuickTake


Since relations between the U.S. and Turkey, the two countries have resolved a two-year standoff over an American pastor detained in Turkey. However, more complex issues continue to divide the NATO allies and threaten new crises. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's plans to buy a missile-defense system from Russia, and the U.S. alliance with a militia in Syria that Turkey considers a foe. The two countries affirm the need to maintain their alliance, but the rifts that have surfaced have eroded trust on both sides.

1. What's the coup attempt to do with the U.S.?

For Erdogan, the failed coup remains a festering sore. So does Washington's reluctance to extradite Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania exile as Erdogan accuses of orchestrating the botched putsch. American officials say Turkey's evidence against Gulen, who moved to the U.S. two decades ago and in compound in the Pocono Mountains, is insufficient to extradite him. Claiming that Gulen's followers had set up to "deep state" by infiltrating security services, schools and courts, Erdogan initiated a purge of the civil service that's about 130,000 people their jobs. Turkish officials also arrested American Andrew Brunson, an Evangelical preacher.

2. Why did you rush to crisis?

While Turkish officials said the Brunson case was a judicial matter and not political, Erdogan deepened U.S. suspicions that the pastor was being held as a bargaining chip when he suggested last year that Turkey could release him in the exchange for Gulen. "Give a pastor, take a pastor," he said. Insisting Brunson was unjustly detained, the U.S. pressured Turkey to release him by imposing sanctions against Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior. Suleyman Soylu, sending Turkish financial markets plunging. Turkey retaliated with measures against U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. After a Turkish court freed Brunson in October, both countries dropped their sanctions.

3. Are there other signs of a rapprochement?

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Nov. 5 that Turkey was one of eight countries given a temporary waiver from new American sanctions punishing countries that buy Iranian oil. Erdogan has said that talks with the U.S. Turkish and U.S. over its concerns concerning the Turkish state-lender Halkbank are on a "positive path." forces started joint patrols Nov. 1 in the rural areas of the northwestern Syrian town of Manbij. And the U.S. on Nov. 6 announced rewards for information leading to three senior members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has been fighting for autonomy inside Turkey for more than three decades. It was the first such action by the U.S. since it joined Turkey in branding the group at the terrorist organization in 1997.

4. What continues to strain ties?

Apart from the argument on Gullen's extradition, Ankara's plans to buy a missile-defense system from Russia, despite the opposition from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and differences over the war in Syria. Mehmet Hakan Atilla, former head of international banking at Halkbank, who was convicted in New York court financial sanctions. Turkey alleges the case relied on fabricated evidence given by the followers of Gulen.

5. So what if Turkey buys Russian missile defenses?

The Russian S-400 system is not compatible with NATO technology. That has fueled demands in the U.S. to put on hold planned deliveries of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, where portions of the Lockheed Martin Co. plane are being built. The U.S. fears that the Russian system could be used to collect intelligence on the F-35's stealth capabilities.

6. What are the divisions over Syria?

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. its most reliable ally in the fight against Islamic State in Syria was a Kurdish-led militia and gave it a full support. That riled Turkey, which sees the militia as an affiliate of the PKK. Turkey called on Trump to reverse Obama's policy, but instead he doubled down to Syrian Kurds. Turkish forces have attacked the militia in Syria. In late October, Turkey shelled the fighters near the northern Kurdish stronghold of Kobani as the U.S. expressed "great concern" over the security of the American forces deployed in the area. The U.S. also said Turkey's military drive was slowing the campaign against the Islamic State, a claim that Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, denied.

7. Any other sore points?

Kurdish group of PKK have attracted U.S. at least three additional people detained in Turkey. attention and fueled strains. NASA Scientist Serkan Golge and two Turkish employees of U.S. diplomatic missions, including Metin Topuz of Istanbul consulate and Hamza Ulucay of Adana consulate. The U.S. he says they're innocent.

8. Is Turkey looking elsewhere for allies?

Syrian government forces in 2015, saying it entered its airspace. Syria's northwestern, Italy, with a deal on Russia and its ally Iran, Turkey deployed troops in Syria's northwestern Idlib province with the goal of creating a demilitarized zone, and it's sought the political solution to the conflict.

9. What could Turkey keep in the U.S. orbit?

Common interests have prevented from being escalated into permanent rupture, and those shared interests remain. Turkey depends on short-term foreign investments from Americans and others who take a lead from Washington. Meanwhile, the U.S. is short of dependable allies among Islamic countries in the Middle East, in the region where Russia and Iran are ascendant. Trump is promising too much Iran, and may not want to push too much into the opposing camp. Turkey has NATO's second largest incirlik Air Base, which is used for operations against the Islamic State.

To contact the reporter on this story: Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at shacaoglu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Onur Ant at oant@bloomberg.net, Amy Teibel, Lisa Beyer

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P.


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