White House Denies Giving Turkey Ultimatum Over Israel Ties

Obama administration rejects claims it threatened to scrap arms deal unless Ankara moved to soothe tensions.

The United States on Monday denied reports it had given Turkey an ultimatum, threatening to scrap a huge arms deal unless the Muslim state toned down its hostile stance against Israel.

Earlier Monday the Financial Times reported that U.S. President Barack Obama had warned the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that strained ties with Israel and increasing support of Iran could hinder Washington's plan to ship arms, including sophisticated drones, to Turkey.

President Barack Obama meets with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

But the White House has rejected the claims.

"I really don't know where they would have divined that from," White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters.

"The President and Erdogan did speak about 10 days ago and they talked about Iran and the flotilla and other issues related to that. But we obviously have an ongoing dialogue with them. But no such ultimatum was issued.There’s no ultimatum," he said.

Burton's comments apparently contradict those of a senior Obama administration official quoted by the FT.

“The president has said to [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan that some of the actions that Turkey has taken have caused questions to be raised on the Hill [Congress] . . . about whether we can have confidence in Turkey as an ally," the Londion paper quoted the official as saying.
Relations between Israel and Turkey have been increasingly fractious since Israel's three-week invasion of Gaza a year and a half ago, reaching a low point in May when Israel killed nine Turkish activists in a raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship.

The attack led to the near severance of ties between Turkey and Israel, once close military allies, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has begun to search for other partners in the region, particularly Greece.