Ahmadinejad and Erdogan Meet, U.S. Official in Ankara
U.S. Acting Under Secretary for arms control and international security Rose Gottemoeller is in Ankara for talks on the Syrian crisis. “We continue to consult with our partners in the region, including Turkey, on a variety of issues related to Syria,” U.S. embassy spokesman T.J. Grubisha said. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little assured the international community that the U.S. “will continue to funnel nonlethal aid to the Syrian opposition,” amid reports that weapons intended for more secular Syrian rebels are ending up in the hands of hard-line Islamic jihadists. Although the U.S. does not directly supply arms, it provides support and intelligence for shipments of ammunition. In Washington, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed support for Turkey’s ban on Syrian flights. “We are encouraging all of Syria’s neighbors to be vigilant with regard to how their airspace is used,” Nuland said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met privately at the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) summit in Azerbaijan. “We have agreed to bolster communication at the level of the foreign ministries to bridge differences over the unfolding Syrian conflict,” Erdogan told a press conference, after agreeing to suggest three-way talks with Egypt to Ahmadinejad. Erdogan also suggested the option of talks between “Turkey-Russia-Iran [or] Turkey-Egypt-Saudi Arabia,” state-run Anatolian news agency reported. Nuland responded, saying ”we continue to believe that the Iranians are a malign force in this, that they are actively aiding and abetting the Syrian regime and its war machine.”
Meanwhile, “Obama … had a chance to rid the region of a bad actor,” Richard Cohen fumed in the Mercury News. “Instead, [he] has let the situation drift and it has worsened.” CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward reported similar sentiments, saying “there’s a sense that the U.S. has lost an opportunity here by taking such a hands-off approach to the Syrian conflict.” Jorge Benitez urged ”NATO … to offer Turkey more than repeated promises to follow the crisis ‘closely and with great concern,’” in an op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor.