Secretary Rice spent yesterday in Ankara, Turkey, an important NATO ally that links Europe and the Middle East. Turkey refused to allow the US Army (4th Infantry Division) access to Iraq during the Second Gulf War, which damaged relations.
However, Turkey is a democratic nation that the US has long supported by encouraging the EU to allow it into its ranks. The US also defended Turkey against Russian encroachment during the Cold War.
Here are some of the key public comments made by Secretary Rice and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul:
Dr. Rice: "...We had an opportunity to talk about our hopes for the broader Middle East: a Middle East of reform and opportunity, a Middle East in which democracy flourishes and which there are transparent governments. We talked about the special role that Turkey can play in that initiative, and our joint desires for a Middle East in which all people live in freedom and liberty and prosperity. "
Foreign Minister Gul: "Turkey and the United States are two allies for quite a very long time, and they are not only allies in military issues, but they are also allies in cultural and commercial issues as well. Our relationship is based on common values, and one important common value for the two countries is democracy. Of course, the two allies will always be cooperating and will be in close collaboration in the fields of peace and prosperity, economic development, and the struggle against terrorism.
And I would just say to the countries of the Middle East that we recognize, and President Bush recognized when he was at Whitehall in Great Britain, that for too many years administrations, Democratic and Republican, were not sufficiently attentive to the aspirations of the people of the Middle East to live in freedom and liberty."
Secretary Rice, in her comments is encouraging not only democratic reform but "transparent governments." It may be that Ms. Rice's comments were aimed at Turkey's refusal to create an independent anti-corruption unit, as recommended by the EU, while Turkey has been making other types of overtures to placate the Europeans.
The Foreign Minister of Turkey has a good point at the end, that the United States (and Europe, for that matter) has not always stressed strongly enough the value of personal liberty and freedom in the Middle East. The Bush administration is changing that and forcefully so.