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Key Turkish issues at play in US midterm elections

Key Turkish issues at play in US midterm elections

As millions of Americans go to the polls today for midterm elections, US relations with Turkey also hang in the balance. The midterm polls will see 37 seats in the 100-member Senate up for election, as well as all 435 seats in the House, the lower chamber of the US Congress. Though President Barack Obama's administration has expressed confidence about its continued relationship with Turkey's ruling party, some congressmen have sought retaliation against Turkey for Ankara's improved ties with Iran and worsened relations with Israel. The first major test in the post-election period will come at a NATO leaders' summit in Lisbon on Nov. 19-20, when the alliance will seek to endorse a common position on a US-proposed missile shield to protect NATO members from ballistic threats from rogue states. Washington wants to deploy the system's special X-band detection radars on Turkish soil, an issue that has exacerbated tension between the two allies. While the US designed the missile-defense system specifically as protection against Iran, Turkey has said it sees no such threat from its eastern neighbor. Ankara has conditioned its support for the project – crucial given NATO's process of making decisions by consensus – on unanimous NATO backing, a guarantee that its entire territory will be protected, and that no specific countries are singled out as potential threats. Whether or not Turkey endorses the project will weigh large in its relations with Washington and the rest of the West. One danger for Turkey is a vote on a resolution recognizing Armenian claims of "genocide" that a House committee narrowly approved in March. The Obama administration firmly opposes the bill, but US Armenian groups want a full House vote on the resolution during the lame-duck session that follows today's polls. If the legislation isn't voted on this year, it will expire, and pro-Armenian lawmakers will have to reintroduce it to the new Congress next January. The lame-duck session may also affect the position of US ambassador to Ankara, a post that has remained empty for more than three months.

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