Erdogan seeks to sway Trump amid strained US ties
ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets United States President Donald Trump tomorrow in Washington for the first time as president, hoping to entice the American leader into major policy shifts to solidify a crucial but increasingly strained relationship.
Ties became poisoned in the last months of the Barack Obama administration by venomous disputes over US support for Kurdish fighters in Syria and the presence in the US of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen whom Erdogan blames for last year’s July 15 failed coup.
But, analysts said Erdogan faced a major struggle to convince Trump to change tack, raising the prospect of long-term tensions between the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s main Muslim member.
Preparations for the visit were inauspicious, with Washington announcing it would arm Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Ankara considered to be terrorists.
Ankara initially had high expectations of the relationship between Erdogan and Trump, preferring to forget the new US leader’s radical campaign utterances and banking on a strong personal chemistry between the two men.
Erdogan was hugely encouraged when Trump congratulated him on winning the April 16 referendum on enhancing his powers, an enthusiasm that contrasted with the reticence of not just European Union leaders but also the US State Department.
Burhanettin Duran, head of the pro-government SETA think tank, described the meeting with Erdogan as a “golden opportunity” for Trump to “fix his predecessor’s mistakes”.
But, Erdogan will now have to untangle a web of problems, which also include the arrest in the US of Turkish Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab and the chief executive of Halkbank Mehmet Hakan Atilla on charges of helping Iran violate sanctions.
“I’m afraid the meeting could devolve into a diatribe of complaints ranging from the Kurdish militia to Reza to Halkbank,” Aaron Stein, resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Centre for the Middle East, said. AFP