Reflections on U.S.-Turkey Relations

Posted by James Jeffrey
March 6, 2009
Sun Sets Over Istanbul, Turkey

About the Author: James Jeffrey serves as the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey.

I’m waiting for Secretary of State Clinton to arrive at Ankara’s Esenboga airport. So, I have a moment to reflect on how Turkey has developed and how our relationship has evolved. I’ve spent much of the last 27 years working in Turkey or on issues related to Turkey. Since my first tour in Adana in 1983, I’ve witnessed Turkey’s economy take huge strides, her democracy mature and her society grow to take on the challenges of the 21st century.

A visit to Ankara so soon after taking over at the State Department shows that Secretary Clinton recognizes the importance of our bilateral relationship. We have been allies and friends for over 50 years and we have faced numerous challenges together, side by side. Today, our relationship is more important than ever. We are working jointly to defeat the PKK, achieve peace in the Middle East, help Afghanistan recover, bring a lasting solution to Cyprus and make sure that Iraq becomes a reliable neighbor in the region.
When Secretary Clinton steps off the plane tonight, it represents an opportunity to renew our commitment to the values our two countries share, and explain to the Turkish public why the Turkish-American partnership matters. Everyone in our Embassy is excited about this visit. The cars are in place, the media is waiting, and the plane is landing. It’s time to begin.



New Jersey, USA
March 7, 2009

Rosemary in New Jersey writes:

I just heard that the Secretary's plane has left Ankara. I hope the visit was fruitful. Thanks for the post, Ambassador Jeffrey, and for all your years of service.

And Hillary, yellow jacket!

New York, USA
March 7, 2009

Patricia in New York writes:

The Turkish-American partnership matters and Secretary Clinton, in her traveling to Turkey (and other countries), is reaffirming this fact. Let these initial steps usher in a more peace-filled world.

New Mexico, USA
March 8, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Dear Ambassador Jeffrey: Back in early 2006 when you were serving as Sec. Rice's senior advisor and coodinator for Iraq policy, you led a discussion on "The way forward in Iraq: An integrated Political- Military- Economic Strategy.

First off, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for answering the question I submitted, a rather timely question it was I believe, and as the year progressed and all hell broke loose after the Sammarra Mosque bombing, DOD's public revelations about Iranian backed "special groups", and the extent of Iranian interference became apparent, the answer proved to be critical to Iraqi stability, and the success of the "surge".

(I'd forgotten to include my name, so DoS got creative I guess...(chuckle).

Ellen writes:
With regards to militias like Sadr's Mahdi Army, who's loyalty is to Iran , and the premise of Iraqi sovereignty, does not this situation constitute a violation on the Iranian government's part of UN resolutions regarding Iraq ?

James Jeffrey:
Dear Ellen -- Interesting question. First of all, we support the new constitution 's ban on military militias. The existence of these militias undermines security in Iraq and poses a threat to the Iraqi people, Iraqi Security Forces, and Multinational Forces-Iraq that cannot be tolerated. Regarding the possible violation of UN resolutions, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546 requires Iraq 's neighbors to respect the sovereignty of Iraq and also encourages its neighbors to do what they can to assist in the development and reconstruction of the country. Those countries that are found to undertake actions that do not respect Iraq 's sovereignty or that contribute to undermining stability in Iraq risk reaction by the international community. We have significant concerns with Iran in this context and are prepared to discuss them with the incoming government in the proper forum.


I came across this rather astute analytical presentation by Thomas Barnett on what it's going to take to win the peace, and the restructuring of agency involvement in all aspects of the three "D's" and beyond.

While the style of presentation may not be typical of most power-point presentations you may have gotten in the past from government analysts, I'd have to say that he makes a strong case and that the entire Dept of State from Sec. Clinton on down may gather some useful ideas, and a perspective on interagency cooperation and deliniation of roles that may just prove essential to our success in any conflict mitigation and post-conflict development efforts we may engage in across the globe, now or in the future.

Sec. Clinton's "smart power starts with smart people." is pretty much a given, and people have been putting brains to work for a long time now on these issues.

Thought I'd share a few results with you.

Best Regards,


California, USA
March 9, 2009

Wendy in California writes:

Dear Ambassador Jeffrey,

As you've spent so much time living in Turkey, what are several ingenious solutions or things you would miss terribly when you leave?

When I lived in a barrio in Ponce Puerto Rico 40 years ago, they had a system of "publicos" which served the neighborhoods. Publicos were a cross between a bus and a taxi. A publico was a single vehicle ordinary car, but it had a route. You got in for a quarter, then the next person in a few blocks got in, and so forth. It was an elegant solution to convenient and cheap public transportation that we've never gotten close to in our cities. There was always another publico coming along. And they were close to where you were.

I bet Turkey has some Best Practices. I'd be interested.

California, USA
March 24, 2009

R.S. in California writes:

Dear Mr. Jeffery,

As an American in Cyprus, with relatives here, I hope you know what you are doing with Turkey.

From what I see here in Cyprus, there is no equitable parallel investment in time with the Recognized Cypriot administration by the U.S. government. The 'occupied areas' of the island were unlawfully taken by Turkey claiming 'oppression' of their own people. First of all, we must look at some facts:

1-We all know it was the guarantors of the independence of Cyprus that conspired (with the U.S.) to fabricate this situation. In the UK, the documents delivered to Turkey in 1973 with a detailed analysis of where to invade by the British SAS have been released.

2-Yes it was the dirty tricks of certain U.S. Security departments that played one state against the other (Turkey /Greece), causing invasion. Avrakotos and the Junta.

3-I have wonderful friends from Turkey, and the Turkish side of Cyprus, the Turkish ADMINISTRATION has a long history of barbarism, genocide, and specific massacring of Christians. This has no shape, or indication of democracy.

4-There is no genetic connection between Turkish and Turkish Cypriots. I have spoken with a geneticist here, that has studied the subject. The Greek Cypriots have more of a connection with Hellenistic mainland counterparts, but less so. What we are seeing is actually a cultural war, people willing to kill for their culture to be dominant -- THIS IN NOT DEMOCRATIC THINKING!

5- The Greeks have implemented provisions for Turkish peoples: in Language, for the return of property, free health care and support at least 15 years ago.

6- The fact is that the Turkish population is a minority. In Democracy -- majority wins, (without oppressing the other). One does not use military force to achieve democracy -- I guess Iraq is an example of our works in this arena.

7- The fact from the mouths of Turkish Cypriots -- They want to be reunited with the Greeks, the bloodshed of 1964 was a different time. The Greek side is vastly more prosperous -- The problem is that Tallat's hands are tied by Ankara. If Tallat demanded that the Turkish remove their illegally placed troops, they would not budge!

8- The Turkish Cypriot side is not recognized by the UN, or any country besides Turkey and now the U.S.

9- The acceptance of Cyprus (The whole of Cyrus)into the EU nullifies any previous guarantor-ship treaty or embargo, which reduces the power of the Turks in the region. They do not accept this, but it is out of their hands.

This last thought brings me to the point: by having a meeting with Talat in Washington without Christofias, gives a legitimacy to this illegal administration, the administration that encourages government officials to shoot, nay murder unarmed Greek Cypriot civilians protesting the occupation.

I hope you, Mr. Ambassador are not dancing with the Devil in terms of the Turkish administration. As I have said, I have Turkish friends, and want the best for them . However, the administration there is not to be trusted. Just look how the President of Turkey responded with questions about his country's history of barbarism a the last EU meetings -- shouting and threats! You would never see a U.S. president conduct himself like that! Even with shoes being hurled at him!

Best regards
California, and Cyprus

March 31, 2009

Maria in Pakistan writes:

Reflections on U.S. is very lovely. I like this reflections.


Latest Stories