Getting the knack of international diplomacy

GETTING THE KNACK OF INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY…. There was a bit of a stir this week when President Obama intervened at the G20 summit to resolve a dispute over tax havens between France and China. The substance of Obama’s role seemed pretty minor — the president proposed that the G20 merely “take note” of offending tax havens based on a list published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, instead of “spotlighting” the list — but these diplomatic nuances make or break agreements all the time.

Obama apparently had another opportunity to show some negotiating skills yesterday.

At the NATO summit, member nations were poised to make Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen the next secretary general of NATO, but officials from Turkey objected, and wanted the opportunity to raise objections.

ABC’s Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller, relying on an official in the room who isn’t part of the Obama administration, reported that the president, after voicing his support for Rasmussen, was able to play “the lead role” in resolving the tension.

Obama told his fellow NATO leaders that he believed Rasmussen was the right man for the job, but that everyone needs to be convinced. Mr. Obama told the leaders that all countries need to be able voice their concerns.

With that, Turkish President Abdullah Gul voiced his concerns. This enabled Gul to avoid “feeling like a decision was already precooked,” the source says. “This was critical because like other countries, if you’re put in a corner then you recede. If you feel like people are forcing you into a decision that has already been made you’ll rebel.”

Adds the source: “It’s important for small counties to feel that they have a voice. Obama gave this to Turkey.”

Obama, Rasmussen, and Gul met privately, twice, and returned to the main session all smiles, “indicating that a deal of some sort had been clinched.”

A non-Obama administration source told ABC, “This was a different style than what the leader are used to from a U.S. President. Obama was instrumental in making this happen. Obama eventually clenched the decision with his leadership — and because he listened to what people said.”

Like the G20 story, this seems pretty simple. Obama apparently smoothed over a point of potential conflict by encouraging Turkey to have a chance to raise concerns. That is hardly the stuff of a multi-level game of diplomatic chess.

But obvious or not, President Obama is winning some plaudits for stepping up and showing some leadership on the international stage — a task his predecessor was unable to pull off.

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