United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken faced a chilly reception in the Turkish capital Ankara on Monday as he attempted to navigate the complexities of the Israel-Hamas conflict during his Middle East tour. Despite his efforts to ease regional tensions, Blinken was snubbed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, highlighting the challenges in mediating the ongoing crisis.
Blinken met with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan for a two-and-a-half-hour discussion. However, experts believe Blinken’s mission was to buy more time for Israel, a stance that did not sit well with Turkish officials.
“Blinken’s main mission was to buy more time [for Israel], and the Turks know this. That’s why he got this cold reception,” said Tamer Qarmoot, a professor in public policy at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.
The United States has faced criticism from Arab and Muslim leaders for its staunch backing of Israel, which has continued its monthlong assault on Gaza, resulting in over 10,000 casualties, including more than a third being children.
Blinken’s trip to Turkey followed strained meetings with Arab leaders in Iraq, Palestine, and Jordan over the weekend. Arab and Muslim nations have called for an immediate ceasefire to ease the soaring casualties in Gaza, while the US has supported the need for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting.
During the meeting with Turkish officials, the US side attempted to convince Turkey to exert more pressure on Hamas to release captives, but the Turkish position remained firm. They insisted on a mutual release agreement, where both Hamas and Israel would release captives simultaneously. Turkey also called for an unconditional ceasefire and proposed an international mechanism to observe the ceasefire, with Ankara serving as the guarantor.
Turkey, despite being a strategic US ally, has been highly critical of Israel’s actions, accusing it of war crimes and massacres. President Erdogan has taken a strong stance against Western powers supporting Israel amid the ongoing Gaza bloodshed. Over the weekend, Turkey recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv, indicating the strained relations between the two countries.
In addition to the challenges in mediating the Israel-Hamas conflict, the US-Turkey relationship has been strained over various foreign policy issues, including NATO agreements, backing for Kurdish fighters in Syria, and sanctions against Turkish entities accused of aiding Russia.
The situation in the region remains tense as efforts to broker a ceasefire and establish lasting peace continue.