Obama, Turkish PM Meet in DC


WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) — US President Barack Obama says he and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have agreed that one of the most important issues the two NATO allies need to resolve is Iran’s nuclear program.  The two leaders met at the White House on December 7 to discuss a variety of issues.

Obama said he indicated to Erdogan “how important it is to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear capacity in a way that allows Iran to pursue peaceful nuclear energy. He said he believed that Turkey could be an important player in trying to move Iran in that direction.”

Erdogan said his country and the US have taken joint steps on a variety of regional issues, including Iran’s nuclear program, and he emphasized that he wants to ensure a diplomatic resolution to the problem.

Last month, Erdogan visited Tehran to sign gas and trade deals, and he hosted Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad — whom he called his “good friend” — at a summit of Muslim countries in Istanbul. Erdogan also has dismissed as “arrogant” UN sanctions against Iran for defying the world body by pressing forward with the nuclear program.

Obama praised Ankara for what he called its “outstanding” contribution to the NATO effort in Afghanistan. In November, Turkey took command of peacekeeping operations in Kabul. Some 1,700 non-combat troops are now serving there.

Armenia was also on the two leaders’ agenda. The country signed a historic deal with Turkey in October that could lead to the opening of their common border.
But Armenia is still locked in negotiations with Azerbaijan on resolving the status of Nagorno-Karabagh. Any problems with the Nagorno-Karabagh talks could interfere with normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey.

Obama praised Turkey for the diplomatic breakthrough for the “courageous steps that he has taken around the issue of normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations, and encouraged him to move forward along this path.”

He offered the Turkish leader US condolences for the slayings of five Turkish soldiers on December 7 in central Turkey, where members of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are known to be active. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Obama said he and Erdogan discussed better ways to coordinate their efforts coordination against the PKK, which for more than 30 years has been fighting Turkey in the country’s southeast, near the border with Iraq.

“We have stated before, and I have reaffirmed since I came into office, that the United States considers PKK a terrorist organization, and that the threat that it poses — not only in Turkey but also in Iraq — is one that is of deep concern,” Obama said.