By: Dan Robinson
Source: VOA News
WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama plans some intense Mideast diplomacy this month and next, welcoming leaders of Turkey, Jordan and two Gulf states for Oval Office talks on Syria and broader developments in the Mideast.
The White House said President Obama will welcome Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for talks on May 16.
The two men established a close personal and working relationship in Obama’s first term, which has carried over into Obama’s second term as they grapple with the situation in Syria, among other issues.
At the end of his Mideast trip last month, Obama brokered an easing of tensions between Israel and Turkey, bringing the Turkish leader and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into a phone conversation to discuss differences.
The White House said talks will include Syria and counterterrorism cooperation, and underscore the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Turkey as NATO allies.
King Abdullah of Jordan, who hosted President Obama in Amman last month, will come to the White House April 26.
In their talks in Jordan, the two leaders discussed the sharply increased refugee flows from Syria, with Obama announcing he would ask Congress for $200 million in additional aid for Jordan.
The White House said the leaders will continue consultations on Syria, and Jordan’s political and economic reforms, which Obama praised during his visit to Amman.
Obama will also meet this month with the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia, are thought to be providing light weapons and other assistance to Syrian rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Asked if the visits are part of efforts to coordinate assistance to Syrian opposition forces, White House press secretary Jay Carney avoided an answer, keeping to the general description provided of the purpose of the visits.
“There are obviously a number of issues for these leaders and the president to discuss, including Syria, including his recent visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, including the broader developments in the Arab Spring so he looks forward to these visits and they reflect his commitment and interest in the region and in our policies toward the region,” Carney said.
Syria issued a warning to Jordan this week after U.S. and Western officials were quoted saying Jordan is allowing its territory to be used for training Syrian rebels.
Syria will be a key issue in talks Secretary of State John Kerry is having this weekend in Ankara before he returns to Israel for further consultations there.
White House talks last year between President Obama and the United Arab Emirates leader also focused on concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.