Thursday, April 23, 2009

U.S. Consul at Yeditepe University

Two days ago, I attended a talk at Yeditepe University by U.S. Consul in Istanbul Ms. Sharon Weiner. Ms. Weiner spoke about the U.S.'s Middle East policy in general and U.S.-Turkish relations in brief. Although I thought her speech was a tad bland and basic, the general points are worth reiterating here.

Ms. Weiner started by explaining that a change in 'tone, approach and priorities' would differentiate President Obama's foreign policy from that of George W. Bush's.

She said a shift in tone was clear in Obama's messages to the world calling for dialogue and mutual exchanges between nations as opposed to demands and ultimatums. Changes in approach were noticeable by purview of: Obama's first foreign interview going to Iraq based (but American supported and funded) Al-Arabiya station; his outspoken support for U.S. telecom companies bidding in Cuba; and his recent public handshakes with the anti-Bush Nicaraguan and Venezuelan Presidents Daniel Ortega and Hugo Chavez at the Americas Summit. Ms. Weiner also explained that the U.S. foreign policy agenda was being revamped by incorporating new priorities, such as the environment and Somalian piracy, and re-ordering familiar ones, such as Iraq and Af-Pak.

She also reminded us of the massive expectations on the shoulders of President Obama and cautioned us to be patient in our demand for 'change' - basically saying 'yes we can but you'll have to wait a bit.'

Ms. Weiner finished by talking about the prospects for Turkish-U.S. relations in the first half of the 21st century. She invoked the shared interests of both countries with respect to Iraq, Iran, Israel, Terrorim and nuclear proliferation and explained that due to the Middle East's central role for U.S. and Turkish interests, Ankara and Washington can expect heightened strategic consultation and collaboration on the region's most pressing issues.

(photo from official website of the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul )

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