Gul rebuffs Talanai's claims that Turkey tried to block his reelection
Speaking to reporters over the weekend after returning home from the Lisbon NATO summit, which ended with the signing of a deal to build a missile defense system and the acceptance of NATO's new strategic concept, President Abdullah Gul said that Turkey's concerns about the system were addressed during the summit, and Ankara's views were included in the new strategic concept. "Now we look towards signing a security agreement with the European Union," he added. Among other things, Turkey urged that no country be singled out as a target of the missile shield, and that all NATO members be offered equal protection under it. Gul also spoke about his brief conversation with US President Barack Obama during the summit, saying that they had discussed the US Congress' failure to act on legislation important to Turkey, referring to sales of unmanned air vehicles and cobra helicopters. Following Turkey's strong reaction to Israel's aid flotilla attack in May, which left nine Turkish civilians dead (including one US citizen), and Ankara voting against a new round of UN sanctions against Iran in June, some US congressmen urged Washington to cool its ties with Ankara. Gul said he also brought up the issue of the US ambassador post in Ankara remaining vacant, as Republicans have blocked Obama's nomination of Francis Ricciardone in August. Obama pledged to do whatever he can to get Ricciardone confirmed, Gul said. "He thanked Turkey for its efforts on Iraq," Gul added. "He tries to listen to and understand our concerns on Iran. We believe that Obama will do his best on Turkish-related matters. We value and support Obama, and want him to be strong and successful." Calling that the summit fruitful in every aspect, Gul said that during the meeting he stressed the importance of winning hearts in Afghanistan. On the difficulties facing NATO's mission there, Gul said Turkey has so far trained 12,000 Afghan soldiers and that Afghan police officers are set to get training in Turkey as well. "Turkey knows Afghanistan and the Afghan people. This is our difference," he said. Expressing surprise at Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's recent claim that Turkey tried to prevent his reelection, Gul rebuffed the claim, saying that on the contrary, Turkey has consistently supported Iraq's democratic process. "We have placed great importance on Iraq's sovereignty from the very beginning," he said. Stating that he was the first leader to congratulate Talabani on his reelection, Gul added, "Turkey has never disrupted the balances in Iraq, and the process developed in favor of Talabani." Also rebuffing the claim, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, "Turkey keeps an equal distance from all sides in Iraq." Facilitating the election of the Parliament speaker by keeping difficult balances in Iraq, Turkey cleared the way for the reelection of Talabani, Davutoglu said.