US senators press Obama on Turkey-Israel ties

AFP , Monday 19 Sep 2011

US President Barack Obama faces pressures by Senators to escalate "diplomatic offensive" as to contain recently strained Turkish-Israeli relations

President Barack Obama walks to the Oval Office after making a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Monday, Sept. 19, 2011 (Photo:AP)

A bipartisan group of US senators pressed President Barack Obama in a letter released Monday to mount a "diplomatic offensive" to defuse worsening tensions between Israel and Turkey.

"Mr President, it appears that Turkey is shifting to a policy of confrontation, if not hostility, towards our allies in Israel and we urge you to mount a diplomatic offensive to reverse this course," they wrote.

The senators, Republicans and Democrats, cited a series of moves by Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that "call into question its commitment to the NATO alliance, threaten regional stability and undermine US interests."

Those same policy decisions show Turkey is "now seeking to confront our allies in Israel while developing closer relations with Iran, and other anti-Western proxies," said the seven lawmakers.

They cited Turkey's expulsion of Israel's ambassador, the recall of its own ambassador to Israel, cancellation of all bilateral defense ties, banning of Israel aircraft from Turkish airspace, and other moves.

"In light of these developments, we ask you send a strong message to Turkey that United States is fully committed to the security of the State of Israel," the lawmakers urged Obama.

And Washington should make clear in writing that Israel will receive "real-time" data from a new missile defense radar to be based in Turkey, despite reported objections from top Turkish government officials.

"We ask you to outline Turkey's eroding support in Congress with Prime Minister Erdogan at the earliest opportunity and how its current ill-advised policy toward the State of Israel will also negatively reflect on US-Turkish relations and Turkey's role in the future of NATO," they said.

Democrats Chuck Schumer, Mark Warner, Joe Manchin, Kirsten Gillibrand, Republicans Mark Kirk and Scott Brown, and independent Joe Lieberman signed the letter, which came one day before Obama holds talks Tuesday with Erdogan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

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