WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began talks here Monday with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as Turkey spurns US offers to mediate in its showdown with Israel. Washington has expressed concern about the bitter row between its top regional allies over a May 2010 Israeli commando raid on an aid flotilla heading to the Gaza Strip that left nine Turks dead. Clinton and Davutoglu met before US President Barack Obama holds talks Tuesday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Barack Obama as they gather for the UN General Assembly opening Wednesday.
"We have a long agenda to discuss today," Clinton told reporters, adding that she and her Turkish counterpart will discuss the Israeli-Turkish row and other topics.
The United States and Turkey are long-time NATO allies.
However, Ankara is now pursuing a more independent course that is putting it at odds with Washington: its hard line over the Cyprus problem, its softer line on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and its late support for Libya's rebels. On the positive side, US officials said Turkey has agreed to host radar for the reconfigured NATO anti-missile shield in Europe, which is designed to counter future missile threats from Iran.
The United States has offered to mediate an end to the Israeli-Turkish crisis — which analysts said could also harm the US-Turkish relationship — but Davutoglu has rejected the US offer.
Davutoglu said Saturday that Turkey's demands for an Israeli apology over the Israeli raid are clear.
Israel and Turkey have been locked in a bitter dispute since May 2010 when Israeli naval commandos stormed a convoy of six ships trying to reach the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade.
Earlier this month, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and froze military ties and defense trade deals. Ties strained even further when Erdogan threatened to send warships to escort any Turkish vessels trying to reach Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The United Nations criticized Israel for using "excessive" force in the 2010 raid, but upheld Israel's right to impose a naval blockade on Gaza. Israel has refused Turkish demands for an apology.
Apart from the Turkish-Israel dispute, Clinton and Davutoglu were likely to discuss Assad's crackdown on popular protests and other Arab pro-democracy movements, topics the White House said will come up between Obama and Erdogan. (AFP)