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Turkey Flexes More Diplomatic Muscle: Afghanistan, Pakistan...And France

Uniquely situated, NATO member Turkey is pushing fellow alliance members to rethink the approach to the withdrawal from Afghanistan slated for 2014. Turkish President Abdullah Gül also has his say on Pakistan, and addresses unfinished business with the new French President.

Article illustrative image Partner logo Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta meets with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Ankara, in 2011 (Leon E. Panetta)

By Ismet Berkan

ISTANBUL - Turkey is worrying out loud over the future of Afghanistan, as NATO prepares to withdraw its forces by 2014.

It was Turkish President Abdullah Gül who made a point of using unusually forceful language when addressing alliance leaders last weekend at the NATO summit in Chicago, noting that Ankara’s greatest worry is that NATO is not putting in enough work with the Afghan people to help the country prepare for the future.

“Let us not deceive ourselves. We have spent timeless effort and money on Afghanistan for an entire decade. If NATO withdraws and everything reverts back to the old order, all our efforts would have gone to waste,” Gül said speaking to his counterparts at a dinner hosted last Sunday by U.S President Barack Obama.

Gül explained that he had given a blunt and uncensored talk at the dinner, which had spurred heated debate and conversation in preparation for the summit declaration, for which Obama had asked input from all members.

“We focused on the military, without winning over the Afghan people first," Gül said. "If NATO is withdrawing, it needs to be done in small steps and until 2014 our focus should be on humanitarian matters.” 

Still, even with such a military-centric focus, there is still a long way to go in empowering the Afghan troops. “Look at the Afghan troops and then look at the alliance troops. They do not even have boots on their feet and helmets on their heads. Where have the trillion dollars we spent gone? There is still no asphalt on the roads of Kabul,” Gül declared.

Pakistan and France

While the majority of the conversation focused on Afghanistan, Gül also mentioned Pakistan, saying it was wrong to ostracize the country, which forces it into a corner. “It’s not right to adopt an antagonistic attitude toward Pakistan. They almost weren’t invited to the summit. Do not forget; they are also administrators who come to power through elections and account to their people in the end,” Gül said.

Gül said he'd spoken to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who complained about the total lack of apologies for the country's casualities from errant NATO attacks. “By not inviting Zardari to this summit and bragging about the conclusions we have come to here; we are fooling ourselves,” he added.

Gül explained Turkey’s position on helping to prevent mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan: trilateral meetings between Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan work to address security issues between the two countries.

During the summit Gül announced that the historical friendship and cooperation treaty of 1921 between Afghanistan and Turkey, will be renewed with a strategic agreement for future cooperation. “Our interest in Afghanistan, our presence there and our assistance will continue after 2014 as well,” Gül added.

President Gül also met with France’s newly elected President François Hollande. Gül pressed Hollande about France’s antagonistic attitude towards Turkey, notably the recent French legislation to make it a crime to deny that Armenians were victims of genocide at the hands of Turkey. Gül also asked why a French president has not visited Turkey for the past 20 years.

Hollande acknowledged his remarks and declared that it was time to press 'reset' on Franco-Turco relations.

Read the original article in Turkish

Photo - Leon E. Panetta

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About this article source Website:

Hurriyet ("Liberty") is a leading Turkish newspaper founded by Sedat Simavi in May 1948. Based in Istanbul, the newspaper is printed in six cities in Turkey but also in Frankfurt, Germany. Owned by Aydin Dogan, some 600,000 copies of Hurriyet are distributed everyday.

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