Hilarious! According to Turkish Politics [@TurkishPolitics] on Twitter just now, the White House has issued an explanatory statement over the following photo and caption:
The White House caption on this photo is: President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey in the Oval Office, July 30, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
This photo + its caption is published on the White House website, here.
@TurkishPolitics has just reported, via a series of three Tweets on Twitter, that:
1.) The #WhiteHouse released a statement regarding Pres. #Obama’s picture holding a baseball bat while speaking on the phone with PM #Erdogan. +
2.) “We posted this photo with only one goal, and that is to highlight the close relationship of Pres. Obama with PM #Erdogan, (…) +
3.) + and to draw attention to their meetings on the Syrian crisis.”
The Turkish English-language paper, Hurriyet Daily News, wrote Friday here that White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the White House “had been keeping a close watch on the debate in Turkey that followed the release of the photo”.
According to the Hurriyet Daily News, the White House statement also noted that “The bat was a gift to the president from the American athlete Hank Aaron”.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, The Times of Israel reported on 1 August that both U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in recent visits to Israel, put a lot of effort in trying to convince Israel to issue the apology that Israeli and Turkish diplomats negotiated extensively, in order to overcome the strong chill in Israeli-Turkish relations. The Times of Israel explained here that:
- “On her visit here two weeks ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is understood to have urged Israel’s leaders to do what is necessary, however unpalatable, to heal the rift with Ankara. Panetta was bringing a similar message. And in the prime minister’s circle, there is growing awareness these days of how important it is to try to fix the relationship. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hitherto balked at apologizing to Turkey for the deaths of nine of its citizens in the Mavi Marmara incident — the May 30, 2010 flash point when Israeli naval commandos opened fire after being attacked by club-wielding thugs aboard the vessel that sought to bust Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Netanyahu feels strongly that an apology would almost amount to a betrayal of those commandos, who resorted to live fire because they felt their lives to be in danger. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, no less concerned to do the right thing by the IDF, nonetheless has been convinced for some time that the advantages of a healed partnership with Ankara outweigh the disadvantages — including the sense of injustice and humiliation — of saying sorry. The argument advanced by the US and long accepted by Barak has been that the hostility felt by Turkey is harming wider Israeli interests, and most notably undermining international solidarity in the battle to thwart Iran — Israel’s most pressing regional concern. The new factor is the escalated chaos in Syria — and the heightened concern over chemical weapons falling into dangerous and irresponsible hands — a causus belli, according to Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. It is in that light that Israeli-Turkish ties take on even more importance: Israel’s air strike in northeast Syria in 2007 — subsequently acknowledged abroad as having destroyed a North Korean-built nuclear reactor — was described in foreign reports as having involved a route back from the target that passed through Turkey. The IAF was reported to have jettisoned fuel tanks and munitions close to the Syria-Turkey border. Flying such a route might not be necessary to deal with a chemical weapons threat. But far better, if Israel feels the imperative to strike at chemical weapons stores or convoys, to do so with a mollified Turkey across the border than with a Turkey still highly hostile to Israel and well-placed to intervene”…