Washington briefing: Turkish leader derides Bush, lobbies Obama

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Friday November 28, 2008

Washington - Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan used an invitation from President George W. Bush to an economic summit in Washington to lecture President-elect Barack Obama and to lambast the Bush administration's policies as "disastrous."

Although Mr. Obama himself declined to take part in the summit, he asked former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Rep. Jim Leach (R.-Iowa), and Philip Gordon of the Brookings Institution to meet with foreign leaders on his behalf.

According to Turkish media, in meetings with Mr. Obama's representatives and in speeches at Brookings on November 14 and a day earlier at the Columbia University, Mr. Erdogan touted Turkey's importance and warned President-elect Obama about Turkey's "sensitivities" such as its insistence on denial of the Armenian Genocide and opposition to a de facto Kurdish state in Iraq.

In his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama repeatedly pledged to drop the Bush administration's policy and stop deferring to the Turkish lobby when it came to U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide.

Separately, Mr. Obama pledged to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq within sixteen months.

Mr. Erdogan criticized the withdrawal plan as "premature" and the recognition pledge as "immature."

At Brookings, the Turkish leader claimed that "U.S. support is essential for maintaining the dialogue" between Turkey and Armenia, implying that Ankara would stop seeking normal relations with Yerevan if President Obama, in Mr. Erdogan's words at Columbia, acquiesced to Armenian-Americans' "cheap political lobbying" and speak clearly on the genocide in Ottoman Turkey.

Also at Columbia, Mr. Erdogan spoke of his desire to follow the recent Russian example and host a meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents.

And in Washington, Mr. Erdogan repeated his offer to mediate between the United States and Iran, while suggesting that Tehran cannot be forced to drop its nuclear program while other countries (presumably Israel, India, and Pakistan in addition to the United States, Russia, France, Britain, and China) retain nuclear weapons.

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