Thursday, November 14, 2019
Despite tensions between Washington and Ankara, US President Donald Trump almost exuberantly praised his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his visit to Washington. "I'm a big fan of the president," Trump told a joint press conference with Erdogan at the White House. "We have a great relationship." This applies both to their personal relationship and to the relationship between the two countries.
For their dispute over the purchase of a Russian missile defense system type S-400 both sides found no solution. Erdogan also expressed resentment over the recent Armenian resolution from the US Congress.
The relationship between the NATO partners Turkey and USA is clouded because of various issues. The Turkish military offensive in northern Syria a good month ago had exacerbated tensions.
The Turkish army invaded with allied rebels on October 9 in northern Syria to drive the Kurdish militia YPG out of the border area. The YPG is the ally of the US armed forces in the fight against the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS). Turkey regards the Kurdish militia as a terrorist organization. Trump had paved the way for the offensive with a withdrawal of US troops from the border region in northern Syria. Critics accused him of abandoning the YPG.
Protests in front of the White House
Trump said that the US relationship with the Kurds was good. Also the agreed ceasefire in the area hold. He understood the concerns of the Turkish government with regard to northern Syria, stressed Trump and thanked Erdogan for his commitment. Turkey has also arrested and guarded many IS militants in the region.
Dozens of people protested in front of the White House on Wednesday against Erdogan and his offensive. Protesters held, among other flags of the Kurdish militia YPG and shouted: "Turkey out of Syria" and "shame on Turkey". In the evening, demonstrators continued to drive to the nearby hotel where Erdogan stayed in Washington. On the sidelines of Erdogan's recent visit to the US capital in May 2017, his bodyguards had beaten peaceful demonstrators outside the Turkish Embassy, causing outrage in America.
Controversy over genocide of Armenians
Erdogan had meanwhile publicly questioned his recent visit to the US – after a vote in the US Congress that displeased the Turkish government. The House of Representatives passed a resolution at the end of October stating that the US would recognize the Armenian genocide and condemn the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey, succeeding the Ottoman Empire, condemns the deaths of 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians during the First World War and regrets the massacres. A classification as genocide, however, strictly rejects them. Erdogan complained that the congressional resolution was intended to violate the Turkish nation and that it aimed "to cast a shadow over our relations." He warned, "In an issue that happened 104 years ago under wartime conditions, policymakers do not have to be policymakers, but historians."
Gulen also a topic
The Turkish president also again demanded the extradition of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom he called "terrorist leader". The fact that Gulen lives in the US is unacceptable. He hopes that the US will hand over "these terrorists" to Turkey, just as Turkey is letting terrorists out to other countries.
The Islamic preacher Gulen lives in the US state of Pennsylvania. Turkey blames Gulen for the July 2016 coup attempt. Gulen rejects any responsibility. Since the coup Turkey is in its own country against alleged Gulen supporters, but also against opposition.
Trump: "Are very good friends"
Trump struggled with Erdogan's visit, however, emphasized conciliatory tones. He said Turkey is an important strategic partner for the US. The trade relations of both countries also have great potential and should be expanded considerably. Speaking to Erdogan at the Oval Office, he said, "The President and I are very good friends, we have been friends for a long time – almost since the first day." You understand the other country.
In the dispute over the purchase of a Russian missile defense system type S-400, however, there is still no solution between the two sides. That Turkey bought military equipment from Russia created "some very serious challenges," said Trump, in one of his few critical remarks during the visit. He also stressed: "Hopefully we will be able to solve the situation." The foreign ministers and the National Security Advisers were tasked with finding a solution. Erdogan said the problems can only be overcome through dialogue.
Turkey had caused the armaments deal in the summer for anger at the NATO partner USA. Washington fears that Russia will be able to obtain data on the capabilities of the US F-35 fighter jet through the sensitive radar of the weapons system. Ankara was a partner in the construction of the fighter jet and wanted to buy numerous aircraft. After acquiring the missile defense system, the US excluded Turkey from the F-35 program. Hard sanctions have not been achieved so far.