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While Turkey prepares for a make or break year with the European Union (EU), perhaps a not less important issue for Ankara is its relationship with Washington.  Over the past year, U.S.-Turkish relationship has undergone some serious challenges.  Despite the positive developments of the past months, today Ankara and Washington still do not appear to be on the same page when it comes to Iraq or their vision of the Middle East.  Then, it seems that if the U.S.-Turkish relationship is to be reinvigorated in 2004, this would likely take place elsewhere, including Turkey’s northern neighborhood (from the Balkans and Black Sea basin,  to the Caucasus and Central Asia).  There are many tangible opportunities for cooperation in this region.  For instance, Washington and Ankara can work to bolster the energy corridor, carrying gas and oil out of the Caucasus and Central Asia, while helping facilitate democratic transitions in this area. Besides, they can collaborate to preserve the native brand of peaceful Islam in this region against the violent strains of wahhabism and Iranian propaganda.  Finally, there is a golden opportunity for Turkey in 2004 for Ankara’s own interests, as well as the U.S.-Turkish partnership:  NATO’s 2004 Istanbul summit.  Turkey can launch a process of bringing countries around the Black, Caspian, and even the Mediterranean Seas into NATO’s fold, as committed partners. A new NATO headquarters, “NATO-Istanbul,” could be established in Istanbul to promote NATO security and guide NATO expansion in this area.In sum, the immediate prospects of U.S.-Turkish partnership lie in Turkey’s north as well as in Turkey’s ability to engage its potential in this region while facilitating NATO enlargement into its neighborhood. Herein lie the promises of 2004 for Turkey, for the U.S. and the EU.

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Soner Çağaptay
Soner Çağaptay
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