PM Erdoğan to get Syria briefing from Pentagon

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News – 14.5.2013 – Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is set to depart for his four-day trip to the United States today with a heavy agenda topped by recent developments in Syria and the Syrian regime-linked deadly blast that killed 49 Turkish citizens over the weekend.

Apart from Erdoğan’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, another crucial meeting will take place at the Pentagon where Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is expected to give a detailed briefing on Syria.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, EU Minister Egemen Bağış and Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan will accompany Erdoğan, along with 90 businessmen who will have separate meetings with their U.S. counterparts. The prime minister’s meeting with Obama is set to take place on May 16. The most important topic of the Erdoğan-Obama meeting will be the ongoing turmoil in Syria and international efforts to end the bloodshed in Turkey’s southern neighbor. As Turkish officials said they have evidence proving that the deadly blast in Reyhanlı was organized by the Bashar al-Assad regime, Erdoğan is likely to ask Obama to do more for the Syrian opposition to speed up the political transition.

Top issues on table

Providing arms and training to the Free Syrian Army and establishing security corridors and a no-fly zone over Syria are among Turkey’s expectations from the U.S. These issues are likely to be analyzed in a detailed manner at the Pentagon where the Secretary of Defense and top American army officials will brief Erdoğan. Erdoğan and Obama will also discuss the recent deal between the U.S. and Russia to hold an international conference in the coming weeks for Syria. Turkey is not opposed to the idea of reviving hopes for a political deal but its main concern is whether this will take place with or without Assad. The Turkey-Israel reconciliation process is also going to be an important issue between the leaders as Obama played a crucial role in pushing Israel to apologize to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara attack. Turkey’s relations with Iraq and controversy over its ambitious energy deal plans with northern Iraq will also be on their agenda. Turkey’s peace process will also be discussed. Davutoğlu will have a separate meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry before the Obama-Erdoğan meeting.