The recent diplomatic talks in Istanbul between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Turkish officials marked the beginning of a significant week-long tour across the Middle East. The primary aim of this trip is to ease the escalating tensions that have emerged since the start of Israel’s war on Gaza in October.
High-Stakes Meeting with President ErdoganDuring his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Blinken underscored the importance of preventing the spread of the conflict, securing the release of hostages, expanding humanitarian aid, and reducing civilian casualties. Furthermore, he emphasized the necessity of working towards sustainable regional peace that ensures Israel’s security while advancing the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Turkish Critique and Prioritization of Humanitarian CrisisErdogan, known for his outspoken criticism of Israel’s military actions in Gaza, had previously declined a meeting with Blinken during the US diplomat’s visit to Ankara in November. This stance was a result of Washington’s unwavering support for Israel’s offensive in Gaza. However, their recent meeting in Istanbul marked a significant shift in engagement. Discussions with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan primarily centered on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Fidan highlighted the escalating aggression by Israel and stressed the need for an immediate ceasefire, allowing the permanent delivery of aid. Additionally, he underscored the urgency of returning to negotiations for a two-state solution.
‘De-escalation’ and Regional CooperationThe strained relationship between the US and Turkey, predating the current conflict, has been marred by various foreign policy disputes, encompassing matters related to NATO and Iraq. One of the focal points of Blinken’s discussions in Istanbul was Turkey’s process to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership, a matter that has been a source of contention. Nonetheless, US officials remain optimistic about Ankara’s imminent approval of Sweden’s accession following its endorsement by the Turkish parliament.
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