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U.S. Needs to Deepen Ties with Turkey Despite Concerns, Says New CFR Task Force

May 8, 2012
Council on Foreign Relations

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Turkey is a rising regional and global power facing, as is the United States, the challenges of political transitions in the Middle East, bloodshed in Syria, and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. As a result, it is incumbent upon the leaders of the United States and Turkey to define a new partnership "in order to make a strategic relationship a reality," says a new Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)–sponsored Independent Task Force.

The bipartisan Task Force is chaired by former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright and former national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, and is directed by Steven A. Cook, CFR's Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies. The Task Force includes twenty-three prominent experts who represent a variety of perspectives and backgrounds.

"Turkey may not yet have the status of one of Washington's traditional European allies," the report explains, "but there is good strategic reason for the bilateral relationship to grow and mature into a mutually beneficial partnership that can manage a complex set of security, economic, humanitarian, and environmental problems."

The relationship should reflect "not only common American-Turkish interests, but also Turkey's new stature as an economically and politically successful country with a new role to play in a changing Middle East," argues the Task Force in the report, U.S.-Turkey Relations: A New Partnership.

Turkey is more democratic, prosperous, and politically influential than ever before. Still there are worrying domestic developments that raise questions about Turkey's democratic practices. According to the Task Force, these concerns include: "the prosecution and detention of journalists, the seemingly open-ended and at times questionable pursuit of military officers and other establishment figures for alleged conspiracy against the government, the apparent illiberal impulses of some Turkish leaders, the still-unresolved Kurdish issue, and the lack of progress on a new constitution."

The Task Force finds that overall, Turkey is not well understood in the United States. The Task Force "seeks to promote a better understanding of the new Turkey—its strengths, vulnerabilities, and ambitions—in order to assess its regional and global role and make recommendations for a new partnership of improved and deepened U.S.-Turkey ties."

To make the vision for a new U.S.-Turkey partnership a reality, Ankara and Washington should observe the following principles:

– equality and mutual respect for each other's interests;

– confidentiality and trust;

– close and intensive consultations to identify common goals and strategies on issues of critical importance;

– avoidance of foreign policy surprises; and

– recognition and management of inevitable differences between Washington and Ankara.

The report is available at www.cfr.org/turkey_task_force.

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Task Force Members

Madeleine K. Albright (chair), Albright Stonebridge Group

Henri J. Barkey, Lehigh University

Elmira Bayrasli

Richard R. Burt, McLarty Associates

Soner Cagaptay, Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Steven A. Cook (director), Council on Foreign Relations

Edward P. Djerejian, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy,
Rice University

William M. Drozdiak, American Council on Germany

Stephen J. Hadley (chair), U.S. Institute of Peace

Robert W. Kagan, Brookings Institution

Parag Khanna, New America Foundation

Clark B. Lombardi, University of Washington School of Law

Aliza Marcus, World Bank Group

Larry C. Napper, George Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University

Denise Natali, Institute for National Strategic Studies

Joseph W. Ralston, The Cohen Group

Gregory Saunders, BP America Inc.

Patrick N. Theros, U.S.-Qatar Business Council

Vin Weber, Mercury/Clark & Weinstock

Jenny B. White, Boston University

Ross Wilson, Atlantic Council of the United States

Nur O. Yalman, Harvard University

Ahmad Zuaiter, Jadara Capital Partners, LP

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The Council on Foreign Relations sponsors Independent Task Forces to assess issues of current and critical importance to U.S. foreign policy and provide policymakers with concrete judgments and recommendations. Diverse in backgrounds and perspectives, Task Force members aim to reach a meaningful consensus on policy through private and nonpartisan deliberations. Once launched, Task Forces are independent of CFR and solely responsible for the content of their reports. Task Force members are asked to join a consensus signifying that they endorse "the general policy thrust and judgments reached by the group, though not necessarily every finding and recommendation." Task Force members also have the option of putting forward an additional or a dissenting view. Members' affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and do not imply institutional endorsement. For more information about CFR Task Forces, contact program director Anya Schmemann at aschmemann@cfr.org.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries.

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