Bipartisan Policy Center's Turkey Initiative Co-Chairs and Former U.S. Ambassadors Mort Abramowitz and Eric Edelman Unveil Recommendations for Building U.S.-Turkish Cooperation Amid an Increasingly Unstable Middle East

Oct 23, 2013, 13:21 ET from Bipartisan Policy Center

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Bipartisan Policy Center's (BPC) Turkey Initiative, co-chaired by former U.S. Ambassadors to Turkey Mort Abramowitz and Eric Edelman, issued a report today analyzing the difficulties confronting greater cooperation between the United States and Turkey in the Middle East and concluding that the state of Turkey's domestic politics is of vital importance to its future stability and its ability to wield influence in the region.  

As such, BPC's Turkey Initiative recommends that American policymakers focus on the stability of Turkey's political institutions, freedom of its society and dynamism of its economy in our nation's ongoing efforts to forge a cooperative partnership between the two countries.

To read the full paper, click here.

"The Middle East remains a major foreign policy challenge for the United States despite attempts to pivot away from it," said former Ambassador and task force co-chair Mort Abramowitz.  "A cooperative and strong Turkey could be an important partner in helping to rebuild the Middle East.  Indeed, there is no other country in the region that the United States can turn to that could potentially play as constructive a role as Turkey might be able to. Right now that is not happening."

For the past two years, instability in the Middle East, including the civil war in Syria and the military's ouster of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, has given both the United States and Turkey a strong interest in containing and minimizing the spreading chaos. Yet Turkey's approach to these challenges has too often diverged from that of the United States, making cooperation difficult. More recently, Turkey's domestic challenges—the Taksim Square protests, the government's incomplete peace process with its own Kurdish minority, the country's deepening sectarian schism—have undermined its regional standing. At the same time, the United States has struggled to articulate a coherent policy toward Turkey and the broader region.

"This is not the first time that Washington and Ankara have faced turbulence in their relationship," said former Ambassador and task force co-chair Eric Edelman.  "In order to mend ties, American policy makers need to both recognize the challenges facing Turkey and to speak out about differences that threaten efforts to improve cooperation between our two countries.  Above all, U.S. relations with Turkey need to move away from rhetoric and toward a more realistic assessment and dialogue about the challenges confronting both nations."

BPC's Turkey Initiative offered the following recommendations in its new white paper – From Rhetoric to Reality: Reframing U.S.-Turkey Policy:

Reframe U.S.-Turkish policy – U.S. policymakers should shift focus to Turkey's domestic stability and democratic process, including opening dialogue on issues such as press freedom, freedom of assembly and rule of law.

Replace rhetoric on both sides with more candid discussion – U.S. officials should hold frank discussions and offer criticism regarding serious differences with Turkey.  Silence could imply unwavering support of Turkey's government and policies by the United States.

Support Turkey's development – This includes democratization, standing up for civil and economic freedom, engaging a wider cross-section of civil society, encouraging membership in the European Union, including Turkey in transatlantic free trade, and assisting Turkey with Syrian refugees – both in increasing contributions to United Nations refugee funds and encouraging neighboring Gulf countries to offer greater humanitarian support.

Set realistic foreign policy expectations – This includes encouraging support in Turkey for moderates in Syria, engaging Turkey on Iran, reopening dialogue on Cyprus, forging a common approach to Iraq, and encouraging a reestablishment of diplomatic ties with Israel.

"BPC launched this task force to examine Turkey's influence in the Middle East and how both Turkey and the United States could work together and pursue shared objectives in the region," said Blaise Misztal, acting director of BPC's Foreign Policy Project. "Given Turkey's faltering foreign policy and the challenges it faces at home, it is now clear that American policy makers should focus its efforts on bolstering the stability of Turkey's political institutions, economy and societal freedoms in order to strengthen Turkey's relationship with the West and increase its ability to wield power in the Middle East," Misztal added.

Other BPC Turkey Task Force members include: Henri Barkey, Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen Professor of Internal Relations, Lehigh University; Svante Cornell, Research Director, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program; Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, former Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs; John Hannah, former Assistant for National Security Affairs to the Vice President; Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; David Kramer, Executive Director, Freedom House; Aaron Lobel, Founder and President, American Abroad Media; Admiral (ret.) Gregory Johnson, former Commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Europe; Senior Advisor, BPC; and General (ret.) Charles Wald, former Deputy Commander, U.S. European Command; BPC Board Member.

About the Bipartisan Policy Center
Founded in 2007 by former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell, Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is a non-profit organization that drives principled solutions through rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation and respectful dialogue.  With projects in multiple issue areas, BPC combines politically balanced policymaking with strong, proactive advocacy and outreach.

SOURCE Bipartisan Policy Center