Turkey and the US stand to benefit from reinvigorated diplomatic relations, Turkey’s recently appointed envoy told Anadolu Agency amid significant differences between the NATO allies.
In an interview, Ambassador Hasan Murat Mercan, who took office last month, said the two nations should adopt a “realist but positive” approach towards Turkish-American relations and pledged to work to enhance cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
“Turkey is much stronger with its military power, cultural history and human infrastructure when compared to other countries in the region. There may be cyclic ups and downs in Turkish-American relations. This is very natural.
“But when you look at long-term relations, we should see what the mutual interests are between the two nations. Let’s continue to talk about the existing problems, but those problems should not poison our cooperation in other areas,” said Mercan.
“If we focus on existing problems, only develop strategies to solve those problems and put our relations into this framework, we will not be able to make much progress,” he added.
He said Turkey and the US are the two key countries that have a longstanding alliance relationship and are members of transatlantic solidarity.
Mercan said cooperation on regional stability and development focused on common interests will be important both for Turkey and the US.
“Given that, I propose moving ahead together. When we do that, the problem of trust will disappear by itself,” he added.
Relations between Turkey and the US have been running tense over a range of issues, including US support for the PKK terror group’s Syrian branch the PYD-YPG, its inaction against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
‘Turkey more important than ever’
Mercan said decision-makers engaged in Turkish-American relations know about Turkey’s importance, and if the US wants to maintain a presence in the Middle East and Europe, Turkey is one of the most important actors in the region.
“The reason is simple: Turkey’s geography, human resources, population, threats in the region and global repercussions of these threats.
“If the US continues to be interested in these issues, then Turkey will emerge as an indispensable country, which is very natural. Besides, new balances are emerging after the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, Turkey’s importance in the region is much more than ever before,” he added.
The diplomat said there are serious differences and “issues that we cannot agree on,” but these differences should not harm Turkish and US interests in the medium and long term.
FETO among ‘serious issues’
The ambassador also touched on US inaction against FETO, the group behind the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey, calling the case one of the “serious issues” between the two countries.
“The erroneous policies of the US administrations and system on this issue are saddening,” said Mercan, adding that Turkish-American relations are too important to be undermined due to stances on this matter.
“This is an issue that negatively impacts our relations and extremely bothers our country and people. That the perpetrators of a coup attempt staged in Turkey are sheltering in another NATO ally always saddens us.
“That will harm our relations and add more question marks. That is true for the PKK/PYD, too,” he added, referring to the Syrian branch of the PKK terror group, which has received huge support from Washington.
FETO and its US-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 which left 251 people martyred and 2,734 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.
Mercan said the so-called Armenian genocide is brought up by the US public and media each year, which is another issue that harms relations between Turkey and the US.
“No US president has so far used the so-called word ‘genocide’ and [President Joe] Biden is the one who decides on whether to use it or not and Ankara will take necessary steps toward such a move,” said Mercan.
He said Turkey’s explanations are clear and independent historians should work together to shed light on this issue.
“That has been a proposal by Turkey since the very beginning, but unfortunately, the Armenian side has yet to take a step,” said the envoy.
Turkey’s position on the events of 1915 is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.
Turkey objects to the presentation of the incidents as “genocide” but describes the 1915 events as a tragedy in which both sides suffered casualties.
Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia plus international experts to examine the issue.