US President Barack Obama warned Turkey to mend its relations with Israel, or not be allowed to buy American weapons with which to fight Kurdish resistance groups, the Financial Times reported on Monday.
A White House source told the newspaper that Obama "said to [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan that some of the actions that Turkey has taken have caused questions to be raised [in Congress]...about whether we can have confidence in Turkey as an ally."
The source cautioned that if those concerns are not addressed, "some of the requests Turkey has made of us, for example in providing some of the weaponry that it would like to fight the [Kurdish rebel group] PKK, will be harder for us to move through Congress."
White House officials later told the press that Obama and Erdogan did indeed speak by phone, but denied that the president had issued any firm ultimatum. Congressional leaders did say, however, that ultimatum or no, they are less inclined to approve the sale of arms to Turkey under current circumstances.
Turkey has led what most Americans and many Europeans see as an exaggerated diplomatic assault on Israel following the May 31 interception of a Turkish-backed aid flotilla that was trying to break Israel's maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nine Turkish nationals belonging to a violent terrorist-supporting organization (the IHH) were killed after attacking and abducting members of the Israeli boarding party.
Turkey accused Israel of piracy and of committing blatant war crimes. Relations between Israel and Turkey, traditional regional allies, have plummeted since then.
Ironically, Turkey itself became the target of calls for a damning international inquiry last week when the German magazine Der Spiegel revealed that the Turkish military used chemical weapons in an assault on Kurdish fighters last September.
German experts presented with photographic evidence of the aftermath of the assault confirmed that the victims had been killed by chemical munitions. German politicians, who have long suspected Turkey of using non-conventional weapons against its enemies, are now calling for an international investigation.
Erdogan's government has dismissed the German reports as "Kurdish propaganda."
There are around 30 million Kurds living in the border region between Turkey, Iraq and Syria. They have long insisted on and fought for independence in their national homeland, but have been largely ignored by the international community.