The State Department spokesperson struggled to provide more than one reason why the U.S. considers Turkey a valuable ally during a regular press briefing on Wednesday.
Ned Price was grilled by journalists as a meeting was taking place in Washington between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his U.S. counterpart Antony Blinken.
Price said that the U.S. is “grateful for the role that Türkiye has played in helping to address many of the most pressing challenges of our time.” He then proceed to mention Turkey’s role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and added:
It is probably not an exaggeration to say that without Türkiye’s constructive role, we would not have the Black Sea Grain Initiative, certainly not the grain initiative that is functioning at the scope and scale that it is now. We’ve consistently said that we are grateful for Türkiye’s role in that. We’re also appreciative of the fact that President Erdogan and his government has used their somewhat unique position to seek to address Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The exchange between the State Department spokesperson and journalists on Turkey
The exchange that followed is indicative:
QUESTION: Sorry. At the very beginning of your – you said you are grateful for the – I think this is a quote – “grateful for the role that Türkiye has played in helping to address many of the most pressing challenges of our time.” You named one, which was the Black Sea initiative. But then after that, you listed a whole bunch of problems that you have with Türkiye, including the human rights situation, Syria just now. You didn’t mention but it’s clear that there are differences over NATO expansion as well. So can you name – I mean, you only named one. So when you say “many of the most pressing challenges of our time,” I’d like to give you the opportunity to identify another —
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: — other than the Black Sea initiative.
MR PRICE: So embedded in what I said were two high-profile priorities of ours. Number one is Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and I believe I mentioned this, but Türkiye has played a very helpful, meaningfully helpful role in seeking to put an end to this conflict, or at the very least diminish the violence. They have —
QUESTION: Well – okay. But whatever they’ve done, as laudable as it might be, it doesn’t seem to have worked.
MR PRICE: And again, that is – that is not – that is not for lack of trying on the part of Ankara. That is —
QUESTION: Okay. So you’re – so you’re giving them credit for trying to push the Russians to stop —
MR PRICE: Of course.
QUESTION: – their aggression against Ukraine. And you’ve got – okay. So that’s two.
MR PRICE: And dealing with the implications of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, food insecurity being one of them. That’s embedded in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
QUESTION: Okay, but that’s – that’s the second one. So there’s two. But you said “many of the most pressing challenges of our time.” So give me another example.
MR PRICE: Another example, Matt, is terrorism and the joint efforts that we’ve —
QUESTION: You just went after them about Syria, which —
MR PRICE: — that Türkiye has taken, including the steps that we announced together just a couple weeks ago now to go after a network of ISIS facilitators.
QUESTION: That was, like, four people.
MR PRICE: Yes, Matt. But Türkiye has been a valued member of this coalition. Its efforts have been —
QUESTION: Okay. I’m not saying that they’re not doing any of this. I’d just like to have another example. When you say “many,” does “many” mean two?
MR PRICE: Many ways —
QUESTION: Does it mean – does it mean three? Okay. So you’ve got Black Sea and then they attempt to get the Russians – not successfully, but they attempt to get the Russians to ease up in Ukraine. You don’t like what they’re doing or what they’re threatening to do in Syria. On terrorism, yeah, okay, so you have one joint statement over the course of the last year about sanctions. I’m just wondering where the “many of the most pressing challenges” are, and I’m not – again, I’m not saying the Turks aren’t doing anything about this, but I’d just like you – I’d like to give you the opportunity to explain what those are.
MR PRICE: And I think we’ve just gone through a number of them, not to mention Türkiye’s role in NATO over the course of several —
QUESTION: Türkiye’s role in NATO – they’re stopping —
MR PRICE: Over the – over the – over the course —
QUESTION: They are the main obstacle to NATO doing what it wants to do right now in expansion.
MR PRICE: Over the course of several decades.
QUESTION: Can you explain that deal —
MR PRICE: Yes. Let me move around to someone who hasn’t had a question yet.