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Daily Israel Report

Obama Denies Turkey Warning Report

US President denies report that he warned Turkey of danger to arms deals because of its criticism towards Israel.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/17/2010, 12:42 AM / Last Update: 8/17/2010, 12:38 AM

The White House

The White House has denied a report that the US has threatened Turkey that arms sales would be in danger due to Turkey’s tougher stance towards Israel and its vote against Iran sanctions.

Earlier on Monday, the Financial Times reported that President Barack Obama had warned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that if his country wants to purchase United States weapons, it must change its foreign affairs policy regarding both Israel and Iran.

An anonymous senior official told the paper: “The president has said to Erdogan that some of the actions that Turkey has taken have caused questions to be raised... about whether we can have confidence in Turkey as an ally.”

The official added that doubts over Turkey's loyalties will make Congress less likely to approve weapons requests.

However, Obama has “emphatically denied” the story in the Financial Times, according to a report by White House pool reporter Jonathan Weisman of the Wall Street Journal.

White House spokesman Bill Burton told the press: “The president and Erdogan did speak about 10 days ago, and they talked about Iran and the flotilla and other issues related to that. We obviously have an ongoing dialogue with them. But no such [arms] ultimatum was issued. There’s no ultimatum.”

Turkish diplomatic sources confirmed that there has never been any such ultimatum by the US. The sources admitted, however, that Turkey’s standing in Congress has been hurt as a result of Turkish-Israeli diplomatic tensions.

Tensions between Israel and Turkey escalated in late May, when members of the Turkish pro-terror group IHH were killed in a clash with IDF soldiers during the raid on the Gaza aid flotilla. Two weeks ago, Israel agreed to take part in a United Nations inquiry into the events of the flotilla. Headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, the investigating committee includes representatives from Israel, Turkey and the United States.

Turkey hopes to buy U.S. weapons including the missile-bearing Reaper drone. The weapons are to be used to fight Kurdish separatists in the country's north. Turkish leaders are concerned that fighting will become more intense as the U.S. withdraws from Iraq.