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Turkey and Nigeria get last-minute Obama meetings

As the Nuclear Security Summit officially opens in Washington Monday, President Obama is still looking for opportunities outside the official festivities to take care of other business, adding two high- level meetings to his already jam-packed schedule. Obama will find time to sit down one-on-one with Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the sidelines ...

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

As the Nuclear Security Summit officially opens in Washington Monday, President Obama is still looking for opportunities outside the official festivities to take care of other business, adding two high- level meetings to his already jam-packed schedule.

Obama will find time to sit down one-on-one with Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the sidelines of the summit, and has already met with Nigeria's acting president, Goodluck Jonathan -- raising to 12 the number of world leaders who scored a valued bilateral session.

Obama needs Turkey to sign on to a new U.N. Security Council resolution implementing a fourth round of multilateral sanctions on Iran, and Turkey might have felt slighted considering Obama was already planning to meet with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

As the Nuclear Security Summit officially opens in Washington Monday, President Obama is still looking for opportunities outside the official festivities to take care of other business, adding two high- level meetings to his already jam-packed schedule.

Obama will find time to sit down one-on-one with Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the sidelines of the summit, and has already met with Nigeria’s acting president, Goodluck Jonathan — raising to 12 the number of world leaders who scored a valued bilateral session.

Obama needs Turkey to sign on to a new U.N. Security Council resolution implementing a fourth round of multilateral sanctions on Iran, and Turkey might have felt slighted considering Obama was already planning to meet with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

"I would anticipate that they discuss the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, that they would discuss non-proliferation issues broadly, as well as the need for Iran to live up to its obligations," said Ben Rhodes, the National Security Council’s communications director, of the Erdogan meeting, set for Tuesday. "And I would expect that they would discuss the ongoing effort to pursue normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia, which the United States strongly supports."

The Nigeria meeting was Sunday afternoon in Blair House, the historic 19th century home facing the White House across Washington’s Lafayette Park. Joining Obama in that meeting were Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones, among others. Jonathan wore a gray "fedora-like" hat.

(Nigerian reporters on the scene said that Jonathan met last week with the father of underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, but has yet to make any statement about it.)

Also on Sunday, Obama first met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. The Indian delegation included Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, India’s Ambassador to the U.S. Meera Shankar, and Deputy Ambassador Arun Singh. On the U.S. side was Clinton, Jones, Emanuel, and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake. Clinton, Jones and Emanuel attended all the meetings.

While in Washington, Singh will also meet with President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada.

After Singh, Obama met Nazarbayev, and spoke about the supply routes to Afghanistan and then also had a long discussion on democracy and human rights where Obama apparently didn’t press Nazarbayev on the Kazakh leader’s poor track record on those issues. Aides said that Obama discussed expanding the Northern Distribution Network, the logistics chain through which around 30 percent of the U.S. military’s ground supplies bound for Afghanistan now flows, to allow U.S. flights to fly directly over the North Pole. Obama also promised to support Kazakhstan’s drive to become a member of the World Trade Organization.

Next, Obama had his first bilateral meeting in Washington with President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, a country that voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons capacity beginning in 1989. "South Africa is singular in having had a nuclear weapons program, and moved forward on it and then decided this was not the path, dismantled it and has been a strong and effective leader in the international community," Obama said.

Obama’s last meeting Sunday was with Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, who just received a new set of constitutional powers in Pakistan. The Pakistani delegation included the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Ambassador to the U.S. Hussein Haqqani, and Ambassador to China Masood Khan. Gilani is also going to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The rest of the world leaders who will meet personally with Obama today and tomorrow are: President Victor Yanukovich of Ukraine, President Sargsian of Armenia, China’s Hu, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia.

The summit officially opens Monday at 5 p.m. at the Washington convention center, where every other country’s representative will get an Obama handshake, at least.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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