Dr. Joshua Walker (l) receives thanks from Tarik Celik, executive director of the Istanbul Center.

American and Turkish interests “will converge more than they diverge,” Joshua Walker, an authority on Turkey and the Middle East, said during a lecture Nov 15 at the Istanbul Center in Atlanta.

Dr. Walker, a former Fulbright Fellow in Ankara, Turkey, who worked at the U.S. embassy there, provided an overview of U.S.-Turkey relations including recent frictions in the relationship.

He referred specifically to the U.S. government’s concern about the “flotilla crisis” during which Turkish ships were prevented from delivering humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

He also cited a negative U.S. reaction to Turkey’s vote against additional sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear program, and spoke of lingering resentment against the U.S.’s occupation of Iraq.

Dr. Walker said that American politicians have questioned whether Turkey is “re-orienting” itself toward the East and distancing itself from European values.

He downplayed these fears, saying that Turkey’s influence was being increasingly felt because it naturally was exercising greater regional influence derived from its increasing economic strength.

Turkey has the largest economy in the region with a population of some 75 million, many of whom, he said, “are young, educated and ready to work.”

While acknowledging the tension between the secularist and Muslim sectors of the population, he cited European-style reforms including guaranteeing the rights of women that the current government has passed.

Dr. Walker is a fellow at the Washington-based German Marshall Fund and the Los Angeles-based Pacific Council on International Policy. He is to join the faculty of the University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies in 2011.

His lecture was co-sponsored by the Center for International Strategy, Technology and Policy at The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia institute of Technology.

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