Bush Sees “Obstacles” in US Ties With Turkey

ANKARA (Reuters)–New US President George W. Bush said in a letter to Turkey’s prime minister on Friday that he saw “obstacles” in his country’s future ties with Ankara–but predicted they would be overcome.

Bush–replying to Bulent Ecevit’s congratulatory message on the US president’s inauguration last month–said the future also promised “great opportunities” for US cooperation with NATO ally Turkey.

“No doubt–we will encounter some obstacles in the coming years,” Bush said in the letter.

He did not specify what the problems might be but relations between the two countries were recently strained by accusations in the US Congress late last year that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenia’s 85 years ago.

Congress eventually decided not to vote on a resolution embracing the accusations after then-President Bill Clinton warned it would damage ties with Turkey and compromise US security interests in the Caucasus and Middle East.

Turkey and the United States have a close and growing cooperation in a range of fields such as energy–defense and foreign policy. But differences remain–particularly over Iraq where Turkey wants to see an end to a trade embargo with its neighbor.

“I am sure that we can overcome these obstacles through mutual respect–cooperation and a spirit of open dialogue,” Bush said in his letter.

“The future promises great opportunities as well.”

The Bush administration last month assured Washington’s support would continue for a $3 billion planned pipeline to ship Caspian oil through Turkey to western markets.

Turkey hosts a US-led airforce that patrols the skies of breakaway northern Iraq to protect Kurds there against any attack by Baghdad. The Kurdish-run enclave has been outside the Iraqi administration’s control since the 1991 Gulf War.

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