- The Washington Times - Monday, October 18, 2010

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said Monday that the U.S. remains committed to its alliance with Turkey despite months of high-profile tensions with NATO’s only Muslim-majority member state.

“Even as our views and approaches on some issues may differ, we are allies,” said Mr. Gates in a speech before American Turkish Council Convention. “We share fundamental interests in the region, and our goals remain the same: a respect for sovereignty and rule of law, economic growth and development, and enduring stability and security.”

Turkey, under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has raised eyebrows in the West this year with a number of moves indicating a recalibration of its traditionally staunch pro-Western foreign policy:

• In April, it conducted joint defense drills with Syria.

• In May, it sponsored a Gaza-bound aid ship seeking to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory and later threatened to sever its longstanding ties with the Jewish state after nine Turkish nationals were killed in a melee with Israeli commandos.

• And in June, it voted against a fourth round of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program at the U.N. Security Council.

In his address, Mr. Gates thanked Turkey for its contribution of troops in Afghanistan and praised Turkish leaders for working with the Iraqi government “to reinforce that nation’s emerging democracy, encouraging national reconciliation initiatives and working to rebuild defense and security ties with the Iraqi Security Forces.”

“The United States and Turkey have wisely remembered our friendship during times of agreement and disagreement, and it is incumbent for us to continue to do so,” he said. “There is too much at stake for us not to do so — for our prosperity, for our security and for the credibility of our alliance.”

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