GUL DEPARTS FOR WARM ENCOUNTER WITH BUSH

Today's Zaman
Jan 7 2008
Turkey

President Abdullah Gul's meeting with his US counterpart, George
W. Bush, which will take place at the White House tomorrow, is likely
to be the warmest meeting between the leadership of the two NATO
allies following several years of discontent on the Turkish side due
to US inaction against the presence of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers'
Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.

President Gul's visit to Washington comes two months after a meeting
between Prime Minister Erdoðan and US President Bush on Nov. 5.

Praise and appreciation for US efforts have recently replaced
complaints due to intelligence assistance provided by the United
States for Turkey's ongoing air strikes against the PKK in northern
Iraq. The US intelligence is the fruit of Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdoðan's visit to Washington in November. During the
Nov. 5 meeting at the White House, Bush defined the PKK, listed as a
terrorist group by much of the international community, as an "enemy
of Turkey, of the United States and of Iraq." The president of the US,
which has long turned a blind eye to Turkish calls for action against
the PKK in Iraq, then also vowed to provide real-time intelligence
that the Turkish military could use to strike PKK targets.

Gul departed yesterday from Ankara for an official five-day visit,
upon an invitation by Bush. He will be accompanied by his spouse,
Hayrunnisa Gul, as well as Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, Energy and
Natural Resources Minister Hilmi Guler and Economy Minister Mehmet
Þimþek. Ahmet Davutoðlu, the chief foreign policy advisor to the
prime minister, and Rear Adm. Alaattin Sever, the head of the General
Staff's Intelligence Department, will also accompany the president
during his visit.

Ahead of his meeting with Bush tomorrow, Gul will have talks with
US Vice President Dick Cheney and US Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice. Gul and Bush will address a joint press conference before a
luncheon that will be hosted at the White House. Gul will also meet
with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday.

Only days before his departure for the US capital, Gul had praised
the US cooperation against the PKK, saying that it befits the spirit
of relations between the allies.

"Things are going well at the moment. Intelligence is being shared.

Now there is a cooperation befitting our alliance. Both of us [Turkey
and the US] are satisfied. This is how it should be. We could have
come to this point earlier," Gul told reporters late last month.

Although the turmoil in Iraq and the fight against all kinds of
terrorism will have a large part in the talks between Gul and Bush,
the Middle East peace process and the political crisis in Pakistan,
where Gul paid an official visit in early December, will also be
highlights of the talks between Turkish and US officials. Soon after
hosting Gul, Bush will kick off a Jan. 8-16 tour of the Middle East
that aims to provide fresh impetus to the peace talks with an eye to
creating an independent Palestinian state before Bush leaves office
in January 2009.

The two presidents will find an opportunity for covering a number of
issues, including the Palestinian conflict, Iran's nuclear program and
the situation in Lebanon and Afghanistan before Bush's visit, which
will take him to Israel and the Palestinian territories for three days.

But the main focus of Gul's meetings will be Turkish-US ties. The
Turkish side is expected to raise the issue of efforts in the US
Congress to pass a resolution recognizing Armenian claims of genocide
at the hands of the Ottoman Empire and ask the US administration to
continue with its efforts to prevent the resolution from being passed.

After talks with top members of the US administration, Gul will meet
with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Wednesday evening in New York
and discuss prospects to restart UN-led efforts to reunite Cyprus. He
will also meet with former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
and Richard Holbrooke, a former US assistant secretary of state,
as well as representatives of Jewish American groups, including the
influential Anti-Defamation League. Gul is also expected to meet
representatives of Mesk-hetian Turks living in the US. The last time
a Turkish president visited Washington was in 1996, during the term
of former President Suleyman Demirel.

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