Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Clinton urges Turkey to smooth ties with neighbours

TURKEY must do more to cement democratic gains and smooth prickly ties with neighbours such as Israel if it is to emerge as a guarantor of Middle Eastern stability, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on this week.

Clinton, speaking to the American-Turkish Council in Washington, said the “Turkish miracle” had seen that country’s economy triple in size over the last decade as reforms opened up both the political and economic sectors to new competition. But she said Ankara – which hopes to draft a new constitution by the first half of 2012 – must be careful to ensure that human rights are respected, minority groups are included and media freedoms are guaranteed. “Turkey’s ability to realise its full potential depends upon its resolve to strengthen democracy at home and promote peace in the neighborhood,” Clinton said.

Turkey has alarmed Washington with its sometimes brash muscle-flexing, which has seen its relations with fellow US ally Israel lurch into crisis. It also entered into a dangerous maritime spat with Cyprus over gas drilling.

Clinton underscored US support for United Nations mediation efforts in Cyprus, where Turkey has responded angrily to drilling by US company Noble Energy in waters it says belong to Turkish-backed northern Cyprus but are more widely recognised as belonging to the Cypriot government.

“We believe that public rhetoric must be kept to a minimum to allow the parties to achieve a solution,” Clinton said. “And while we recognise the right of the Republic of Cyprus to explore for natural resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone, including with the assistance of US firm Noble Energy, we look forward to both sides benefiting from shared resources in the context of an overall agreement.”

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