White House denies report of ultimatum to Turkey
The White House yesterday denied a newspaper report claiming that Washington warned Ankara that weapons sales to Turkey would be jeopardized if it didn't change its position on Israel and Iran. A story in Sunday's Financial Times said that during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Toronto early this summer, US President Barack Obama personally delivered the warning to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to the story, Obama's warning is significant as Ankara wants to buy US drone aircraft, such as the missile-bearing Reaper, to use in its fight against the terrorist PKK. "The president has said to Erdogan that some of the actions that Turkey has taken have caused questions to be raised on the Hill (Congress) .?.?.?about whether we can have confidence in Turkey as an ally," the story quoted a senior US administration official as saying. "That means that some of the requests Turkey has made of us, for example in providing some of the weaponry that it would like to fight the PKK, will be harder for us to move through Congress." According to the story, Obama told Erdogan that the Turks had failed to act as an ally in the UN vote on Iran and called on Ankara to cool its rhetoric about an Israeli raid this May that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American on a flotilla bearing aid for Gaza. "They need to show that they take seriously American national security interests," the story quoted the same official as saying. The official added that Washington was looking at Turkish conduct and would then assess if there were sufficient efforts that the US could go forward with Turkey's arms request. But White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton denied the report, telling reporters, "I really don't know where they would have divined that (story) from. The president and Erdogan did speak about 10 days ago and they talked about Iran and the flotilla and other issues related to that. But we obviously have an ongoing dialogue with them. But no such ultimatum was issued." Commenting on the same report, White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer yesterday said, "We discussed Iran and Gaza with Turkey but it's not true that an ultimatum has been given to Turkey. We have deep and strong relations with Turkey. President Obama has established a fruitful dialogue with Prime Minister Erdogan."