Clinton urges Turkey to smooth ties with Israel

"Turkey's ability to realize potential depends upon its resolve to strengthen democracy," US secretary of state says.

clinton 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
clinton 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON - Turkey must do more to cement democratic gains and smooth prickly ties with neighbors such as Israel if it is to emerge as a guarantor of Middle Eastern stability, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday.
Clinton, speaking to the American-Turkish Council in Washington, said the "Turkish miracle" had seen that country's economy triple in size over the last decade as reforms opened up both the political and economic sectors to new competition.
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But she said Ankara -- which hopes to draft a new constitution by the first half of 2012 -- must be careful to ensure that human rights are respected, minority groups are included and media freedoms are guaranteed.
"Turkey's ability to realize its full potential depends upon its resolve to strengthen democracy at home and promote peace in the neighborhood," Clinton said in prepared remarks.
Clinton was scheduled to travel to Istanbul for an international conference on Wednesday, but canceled the trip due to her mother's ill health.
The United States and Turkey have seen trade and diplomatic ties expand as NATO-member Turkey assumes a more prominent regional role. Ankara agreed in September to host an early-warning radar system to help spot missile threats coming from outside Europe, including from Iran.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government also played an important role in the NATO-led alliance that helped Libyan rebels topple longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, and has been an outspoken critic of President Bashar Assad's bloody crackdown on protests in neighboring Syria.
But Turkey has also alarmed Washington with its sometimes brash muscle-flexing, which has seen its relations with fellow US ally Israel lurch into crisis. It also entered into a dangerous maritime spat with Cyprus over gas drilling.
"Reducing tensions with neighbors and increasing stability in the neighborhood is a recipe for expanded growth and influence," Clinton said.
"Turkey's leaders understand this. But it will take bold choices and strong political will to leave the past behind and embrace the future Turkey deserves."