Spotlight: Erdogan expected to meet Trump despite offending moves by U.S. lower house

Source: Xinhua| 2019-11-03 18:15:04|Editor: Lu Hui
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ISTANBUL, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signalled lately that he had second thoughts about his planned visit to the United States after the U.S. legislative adopted moves against Ankara, but analysts think the president would meet with his U.S. counterpart hoping a tete-a-tete could help settle thorny issues.

Erdogan is slated to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House on Nov. 13, and he would stick to his schedule despite Trump's "insulting" letter and the recent sanctions sought by the House of Representatives against Turkey, observed Cahit Armagan Dilek, director of the Ankara-based 21st Century Turkey Institute.

"Because Erdogan manages Ankara's ties with Washington by a backstage mechanism between him and Trump rather than through the institutional mechanism," Dilek told Xinhua.

The ties between the two NATO allies, already troubled over the past years, have been further strained following Ankara's recent military offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria.

On Oct. 29, the anniversary of the day the Turkish Republic was founded in 1923, the House of Representatives passed two resolutions highly offending for Ankara.

The House overwhelmingly demanded sanctions on some Turkish government and military officials, including Erdogan, over their responsibility in the cross-border operation against the Kurdish militia, the People's Protection Units (YPG).

The second resolution, also passed overwhelmingly by the House, officially recognizes the mass killings of Ottoman Armenians during the First World War as genocide.

"I have not yet made up my mind, but there is a question mark," Erdogan told reporters on Oct. 30 regarding his planned trip to Washington D.C..

Back on Oct. 24, Erdogan said he had accepted Trump's invitation to meet on Nov. 13 and that he hoped the meeting would take place in a friendly atmosphere as before.

Ankara criticized the resolutions, saying they were null and void and in violation of the spirit of alliance between the two countries.

"Erdogan may well go to meet with Trump, because he has the habit of resolving problems with Trump based on personal ties," Ilhan Uzgel, an analyst on international relations, told Xinhua.

"Erdogan trusts only Trump in the U.S.," remarked Dilek.

Amid strain in ties with Washington in recent years, Turkish officials have often said Trump has been sympathetic toward Ankara while the U.S. establishment has disregarded Turkish concerns, spoiling Trump's efforts toward good bilateral ties.

"Erdogan would particularly go to Washington to learn what Trump could do to block the sanctions targeting himself and the government," said Dilek.

The sanctions bill approved by the House aims to freeze the assets held in the United States by Turkish political and military leaders deemed responsible for Ankara's latest military operation and block the sale of weapons that could be used by the Turkish military in Syria.

"The reason why the resolutions against Turkey were adopted is particularly due to the fact that we have spoiled the (U.S.) game in Syria," said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Ankara sees the U.S.-backed YPG Kurdish fighters as terrorists, who are now driven 30 km away from the Turkish border following the latest military operation which Washington did not endorse.

Turkey had accused the United States of trying to establish a state-like Kurdish entity along the border in northeastern Syria.

The House bill also calls for financial sanctions on Turkey's state-owned Halkbank and instructs the U.S. State Department to prepare a report on the personal finances and dealings of Erdogan and his family around the world.

The relations between Ankara and Washington have long been soured due mainly to Turkey's purchase of Russian-made S-400 air defense system and Washington's military support to the YPG.

Washington stopped the delivery of the F-35 stealth fighter jets to Ankara and decided to remove it from the joint production program at the end of March next year.

Some latest remarks suggest that it is more likely for Erdogan to travel to the United States despite second thoughts.

Trump is hoping for Erdogan to make the visit to Washington D.C., according to messages communicated to the Turkish side, Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan's spokesman, said Thursday.

On Friday, Trump told reporters that he has a very good relationship with Erdogan.

Last week, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar voiced hope that disagreements with Washington regarding the F-35 jets would get resolved.

However, the analysts feel that it would be the right thing for Erdogan to cancel his visit in protest against the House's moves and Trump's letter, the content of which has been largely described at home as utterly unfit for diplomatic correspondence.

The United States has for the first time directly targeted Erdogan and his family with sanctions, Uzgel said, calling it "the worst period" in the history of Ankara-Washington ties.

A visit to the United States would not only be diplomatically wrong under the circumstances, but would also weaken Erdogan's position, he argued.

"The Turkish ambassador to Washington should have long been recalled," Uzgel added.

In a letter sent on Oct. 9 to deter Erdogan from a cross-border operation in northeastern Syria, Trump said, "Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool!"

The sanctions demanded by the House, the non-binding "Armenian genocide" resolution and the supply of weapons to the YPG all represent an openly hostile attitude toward Turkey, stated Dilek.

The Republican People's Party, the main opposition in Turkey, also called on Erdogan not to meet with Trump at the White House, saying Ankara has long remained silent on attacks on the country's reputation.