NEW YORK – US President Barack Obama met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
on Tuesday and urged him to resolve the diplomatic crisis with Israel.
A following White House statement said that Obama and Erdogan sought common ground on counterterrorism and Middle East policy. Their talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York came as the showdown over the Palestinian statehood bid
looms closer, becoming yet another source of rising tensions in a region already embroiled in political upheaval.
More on Israel-Turkey tensions:
Washington has watched with concern as NATO
ally Turkey's once-friendly ties with Israel have deteriorated rapidly over the deadly results of the 2010 Gaza-bound flotilla raid.
The crisis has underscored Israel's growing isolation and the new limits of US influence in the Middle East.
"The president underscored his interest in seeing a resolution of that issue between those two countries and encouraged continuing work toward that end," White House adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall told reporters after the meeting, saying Obama also emphasized the need to calm tensions throughout the region.
Obama and Erdogan (Photo: AFP)
White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Obama would make the same points to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he meets him on Wednesday.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Erdogan on Monday and urged him not to do anything to worsen its relationship with Israel.
Obama and Erdogan also discussed Syria,
where President Bashar Assad's unrelenting crackdown on anti-government protests has alarmed neighboring Turkey and led to US calls he step aside.
Obama and Erdogan agreed on the need to increase pressure on Assad
and agreed to consult on possible further steps that "could include sanctions, political pressure, other measures," Rhodes said.
Obama and Erdogan, in their public comments to reporters, focused on deadly attacks in Turkey on Tuesday that they agreed underscored the need for cooperation on counterterrorism.
"This reminds us that terrorism exists in many parts of the world, and Turkey and the United States are going to be strong partners in preventing terrorism," Obama said.
Erdogan said the United States and Turkey needed to "work together in planning, use technology so that we can continue to take more steps in trying to fight against terrorism."
Turkey is in talks with the United States to provide a base for a fleet of US Predator drones now stationed in Iraq. It is reported to want surveillance drones to carry out operations against Kurdish separatist rebels based in northern Iraq.
The Obama administration is seeking to preserve close ties with Turkey, an increasingly assertive economic and military power in the region that has become a champion of democracy movements roiling the Arab world.
AP and Reuters contributed to this report