Er­do­gan seeks to sway Trump amid strained US ties

New Straits Times - - World -

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

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