<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> WorldTribune.com: Mobile U.S., Turkey in third summit this month

U.S., Turkey in third summit this month

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

ANKARA U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was scheduled to arrive in Turkey on a two-day visit on Feb. 27. Officials said Gates would discuss a range of security cooperation initiatives, including an expanded U.S. military presence in Turkey.

The meeting would be the third defense summit in a month between Turkey and the United States.

"Turkey has become very important to U.S. strategy in that part of the world," an official said.

Officials said this would mark the third defense summit between Ankara and Washington in a month. In January, Turkish Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Ergin Saygun met U.S. military chiefs. In mid-February, Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Ankara, Middle East Newsline reported.

Gates was expected to discuss Turkey's military invasion of Iraq. He has called on Ankara to prepare for an early withdrawal.

"I think it's important for everybody to bear in mind the importance of the sovereignty of Iraq," Gates said on Sunday. "There has been contact at high levels about this activity that is in northern Iraq right now. I think that there can always be improvement in the timeliness and in the depth of the dialogue. It can't be just a one-time event. It needs to be an ongoing dialogue."

The meetings have focused on heightened Turkish-U.S. military cooperation, particularly regarding Iraq and Iran. Officials said the Defense Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff have offered to expand their relationship with Ankara in exchange for a Turkish pledge not to invade Iraq.

"I would hope that it would be short, that it would be precise and avoid the loss of innocent life, and that they leave as quickly as they can accomplish their mission," Gates said.

Officials said the United States wants to expand its presence at the Incirlik air force base in southern Turkey. They said the Pentagon also wants Ankara's permission for U.S. military supplies to move through Turkey and into Iraq.

"I think there are a lot of opportunities for further cooperation with Turkey," Gates said.

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