Speculation is mounting that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may call off a White House visit scheduled for next week.
The reason given would probably be a protest against the recent vote in the US House of Representatives that recognised WWI-era mass killings of Armenians as genocide and sought to bring forward sanctions against Turkey. However, there are other matters that might deter Erdogan from journeying to the US at this time, such as the fact that he is referred to in the indictment for Iran sanctions busting brought by the attorney general of the Southern District of New York against Turkish state lender Halkbank. Erdogan's son-in-law, finance minister Berat Albayrak, meanwhile, is not named in the indictment but there is a reference that clearly refers to him.
Erdogan is due in Washington on November 13, but said last week that the House vote on the fate of the Armenians meant there was now a “question mark” over the plans.
“These steps seriously overshadow ties between the two countries. Due to these decisions, Erdogan’s visit has been put on hold,” a senior Turkish official was quoted as saying by Reuters on November 4, adding that a final decision had not been taken.
Turkish sources were cited by the news agency as saying that US President Donald Trump and Erdogan have a strong bond despite anger in Congress over Turkey’s Syria offensive and its purchase of Russian air defences, and despite what Ankara sees as the US president’s own erratic pronouncements.
Although Trump appeared to clear the way for the Syria incursion by withdrawing US troops, the White House briefly imposed sanctions on Turkey before lifting them after a deal to halt the fighting and clear Kurdish fighters from the border. However, analysts observed that the sanctions that Trump agreed were rather light.
Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has said Turkey wants to be sure the president’s planned Washington visit could achieve “concrete results” on issues including Syria, counter-terrorism, the defence industry and trade.
Erdogan “will make a final decision [on the trip] soon, maybe in a few days,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
Erdogan said three weeks ago he could no longer keep up with Trump’s blizzard of tweets.
Still, for Ankara, progressing bilateral relations by working with Trump remains the best hope of repairing relations between the two countries.
Both the US and Turkey have stated that they want to work on quadrupling their annual trade to $100bn. But very few details of how that very ambitious target could be realised have ever been put forward publicly.
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