US Senator John McCain 370 (R).
(photo credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)
WASHINGTON – US Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) on Wednesday slammed Turkey for
the handling of its ties with Israel.
“The recent deterioration of
Turkey’s relationship with Israel cannot serve any responsible interest, and is
especially painful for us as we count both Israel and Turkey as vital allies,”
McCain said as part of a brief list of troubling trends in Turkey that he
identified in an address on the country.
McCain, the ranking member of
the US Senate Armed Services Committee, was speaking at the Middle East
Institute’s third annual conference on Turkey.
Turkish Ambassador to the
US Namik Tan, who once served in Israel, spoke after McCain and said that
Ankara’s conditions for reconciling with Israel remain unchanged.
has demanded an apology from Israel after the IDF killed nine Turkish citizens
on the Mavi Marmara
ship that was trying to break the Gaza blockade in
Israel says the soldiers were being attacked and acted in self
“Today Israel has a strong government,” Tan said, indicating
that the newly expanded coalition is seen in Turkey as a change to the political
environment that could lead Jerusalem to take a new approach to Ankara’s
“We expect them to honor all those conditions, and if they do
so, we are ready to move on,” he said.
McCain stressed that even though
the US takes issue with Turkey’s treatment of Israel, the many journalists the
government has recently jailed and its prosecution of military officers that
seems to be politically motivated, the two countries still share common visions
for the region and the future.
“Despite our occasional differences, our
countries increasingly share a larger vision for the future of this vital
region, that is a vision of democracy, individual rights, opportunity and the
rule of law,” he said. “The interests and values of a rising and democratic
Turkey are increasingly in alignment with ours.”
McCain pointed to
collaboration on missile defense, similar hopes for the outcome of the Arab
Spring revolutions and interests in Afghanistan.
David Pollock, a Middle East expert with the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy who attended the conference, said that even though Turkey has taken some
steps that concern the US and Israel, the country does share common ground with
the West and provides an important model for the region.
He said the
relationship between the US and Turkey has gotten closer in the past year, which
has been helped by its “toning down” of some of its worst rhetoric on
While there are still points of friction, he pointed out that
there haven’t been further flotillas from Turkey and that economic ties with
Israel are booming.
Also, Pollock noted that Turkey has downgraded its
courting of Hamas, a policy of grave concern to Israel and the US.
assessed that the shift away from Hamas came from Ankara’s growing awareness of
the dangers in supporting Hamas amidst the regional upheaval.
much other instability all around them, that’s not what they want,” he
said. “They don’t want to push this over the edge.”