The United States is concerned about fraying Turkish-Israeli relations, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday. “The deterioration in the relationship between Turkey and Israel over the past year or so is a matter of concern,” Gates told reporters in London.
“I personally think that if there is anything to the notion that Turkey is, if you will, moving eastward, it is, in my view, in no small part because it was pushed, and pushed by some in Europe refusing to give Turkey the kind of organic link to the West that Turkey sought,” Gates said.
Turkey, NATO’s only Muslim member and a key ally of the United States, has long sought to join the European Union (EU), but has had its hopes slowed over disputes in Cyprus and European concerns over how Turkey’s entry into the EU could impact Turkish immigration flows into the continent.
“We have to think long and hard about why these developments in Turkey (are occurring) and what we might be able to do to counter them and make the stronger linkages with the West more apparently of interest and value to Turkey's leaders,” he said.
Once a major ally of Israel, Turkey has recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and cancelled joint military drills, saying it has reduced its ties to a “minimum level.” The moves come as relations between Israel and Ankara reach their lowest points in decades following a botched Israeli on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left nine Turks dead.
Nevertheless, Gates said he had hope that ties between the two nations could be restored. “I think the two had a pretty constructive relationship and one that contributed to stability in the region. And I hope that over time that kind of constructive relationship can be reestablished,” he said.