Thursday, February 21, 2013

U.S.-Turkey Relations: A New Partnership

The tension over territory and territorial waters in the Aegean is long-standing, but Washington should use its diplomatic and political capital to contain the dispute. Greece is wracked with unprecedented political and economic crises and represents no threat to Turkey. Turkey should avoid anything to suggest that Ankara seeks to take advantage of Athens’ current troubles. Moreover, the potential for accidents and unintended escalation is great. This would set Turkey-Greece relations back and would make it harder to come to a solution for competing territorial claims in the Aegean. Currently, the best Washington can do is build on previous confidence-building measures that established direct communications between the Turkish and Greek militaries by forming a trilateral military contact group of senior naval and air force officers from the United States, Turkey, and Greece to “deconflict” Turkish and Greek forces and help prevent territorial violations. Previously, Turkey has played an important role in forging cooperation between the Atlantic alliance and non-NATO members. The United States should encourage Turkey to continue its outreach in regions such as Central Asia and Africa, which would enable NATO to develop stronger links with critical countries in these regions.
The report concludes that

Turkey is clearly a country in transition. As with all countries undergoing fundamental change, there have been both dramatic steps forward and worrying developments. Overall, however, Turkey’s story over the past decade is a good one. The country is economically more successful and more representative politically and is playing a more influential role in its region and beyond. For the United States, Turkey has always been an important, if at times complicated, ally. Challenges in the bilateral relationship surely remain, but as this report indicates, there is a long list of policies and innovative ideas that will help both countries forge a genuinely new partnership.
As a result, it is incumbent upon policymakers to make every effort to develop U.S.-Turkey ties in order to make a strategic relationship a reality. To do otherwise would be to miss a historic opportunity to set ties between Washington and Ankara on a cooperative trajectory in Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, and Africa for a generation.

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