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Obama-Erdogan Summit Scheduled for Tuesday

Erdogan Actions Reverse 50 Years of Good Turkish-Israeli Relations

Washington, DC –  A bipartisan group of Senators joined in writing President Obama, before his scheduled meeting Tuesday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, to send a clear signal of opposition to recent Turkish policy.  The letter, cosigned by seven senators including Mark Kirk (R-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Mark Warner (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Scott Brown (R-MA), cited, “concern regarding the Turkish Government’s recent foreign policy decisions that call into question its commitment to the NATO alliance, threaten regional stability and undermine U.S. interests.”

The letter details seven major policy decisions recently made by the Turkish Prime Minister that ended 50 years of good relations with Israel and set the two eastern Mediterranean nations on a path to a potential conflict.  The events cited include Turkish decisions that:

· Expelled the Israeli ambassador,

· Recalled its ambassador to Israel,

· Cancelled all bilateral defense ties,

· Cancelled NATO’s Anatolian Eagle air defense exercise (which Israel has participated in since 2001),

· Previously invited Syria to join military exercises,

· Invited Chinese military planes to replace U.S. and Israeli aircraft at exercises, and

· Banned Israeli aircraft from Turkish airspace.

Other press reports indicated that the Turkish air force may have recalibrated its Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) codes to regard Israeli aircraft as hostile while preparing naval frigates for action at sea.

The letter highlights the irony that on the day Turkey severed ties with Israel, it also agreed to locate a U.S. missile defense radar in Turkey.  News reports citiing unnamed Turkish officials suggest Turkey may not allow data collected by the radar to be shared with Israel.  While U.S. Administration officials deny such an agreement exists, the Administration has not provided any written assurances that the radar’s data will be shared with Israel in real-time.

A copy of the letter is below:

September 19, 2011

The President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write with concern regarding the Turkish Government’s recent foreign policy decisions that call into question its commitment to the NATO alliance, threaten regional stability and undermine U.S. interests.

Prime Minister Erdogan recently moved away from standing with U.S. and NATO relationships and policies, now seeking to confront our allies in Israel while developing closer relations with Iran, and other anti-western proxies.

For decades, the Turkish-Israeli relationship served as a pillar of stability. In 1949, Turkey became the first Muslim-majority country to recognize the State of Israel and in 2000, became the first to sign a free trade agreement with Israel. The Turkish-Israeli partnership included everything from military cooperation to tourism, significantly strengthening U.S.-Turkish relations.

We watch with growing alarm as Prime Minister Erdogan hastily ended a half-century of Turkish-Israeli cooperation, moving to open confrontation with Israel. Recently, Turkey:

· Expelled the Israeli ambassador,

· Recalled its ambassador to Israel,

· Cancelled all bilateral defense ties,

· Cancelled NATO’s Anatolian Eagle air defense exercise (which Israel has participated in since 2001),

· Previously invited Syria to join military exercises,

· Invited Chinese military planes to replace U.S. and Israeli aircraft at exercises, and

· Banned Israeli aircraft from Turkish airspace.

In light of these developments, we ask you send a strong message to Turkey that United States is fully committed to the security of the State of Israel.

We understand that on September 2, 2011 — the same day that Turkey severed virtually all ties with Israel – Turkey also accepted the U.S. offer to host a key missile defense X-band radar (AN/TPY-2) as part of Phase I of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). We further understand that senior Turkish officials demand that no data collected from any U.S. X-Band radar in Turkey be made available for the defense of Israel. We ask for your Administration’s written assurances that the data collected by any Turkish-based, U.S. X-Band radar would be shared in real-time with the State of Israel, a major non-NATO U.S. ally, in order to strengthen her defenses against a potential ballistic missile attack from Iran.

Mr. President, it appears that Turkey is shifting to a policy of confrontation, if not hostility, towards our allies in Israel and we urge you to mount a diplomatic offensive to reverse this course.

We ask you to outline Turkey’s eroding support in Congress with Prime Minister Erdogan at the earliest opportunity and how its currentill-advised policy toward the State of Israel will also negatively reflect on U.S.-Turkish relations and Turkey’s role in the future of NATO.

Sincerely,

Sen. Mark Kirk               Sen. Charles Schumer

Sen. Mark Warner         Sen. Scott Brown

Sen. Joe Manchin         Sen. Joe Lieberman

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

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