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Turkey eyes strong Trump alliance

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Ankara: Turning a blind eye to multiple policy differences, Turkey is seeking a tighter alliance with Washington under President Donald Trump but the road to a rapprochement may not be easy.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's relationship with the White House worsened drastically in the final months of the Barack Obama administration, mired in rows on issues from Syria to the extradition of the preacher Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish leader's arch-foe.

But Turkish officials repeated none of the gloom that some EU leaders expressed after Trump's election, instead hoping that he would open a new page in relations.

Trump's administration has a "good opportunity to make bold moves" in his foreign policy after the previous administration's "disregardful" attitude, Ayse Sozen Usluer, head of international relations at the Turkish presidency, told.

She added the new administration would assess anew its relationship with Turkey regarding trade, military, the fight against terror among other issues and "take new steps to improve relations".

So could a potential bromance now be brewing between two men who have made macho politics a trademark?

Less than 48 hours after Trump and Erdogan had their first conversation of the new US president's term, new CIA chief Mike Pompeo came to Ankara last week to meet the Turkish leadership in his first foreign visit.

In a sign of the importance of realpolitik in the relationship, Pompeo had only last year described Turkey as a "totalitarian Islamist dictatorship" in a now deleted tweet. Meanwhile in a flurry of activity, US joint chiefs of staff Joseph Dunford also visited Turkey on Friday.

But for all the good intentions, analysts believe it is doubtful the two sides will progress much beyond a honeymoon period before traditional disagreements reappear.

Ankara hopes Trump is "the man who can deliver (a rapprochement) to them, so they're quite obviously withholding any criticism of him even though his rhetoric in multiple cases is completely against everything they stood for," said Aaron Stein, resident fellow of the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Centre for the Middle East. 

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