Trump-Erdogan meeting to be turning point under either outcome

Trump-Erdogan meeting to be turning point under either outcome

US President Donald Trump's decision to supply the Syrian Kurds with heavy weapons, which was announced on May 9, made front page news in the Turkish media. A columnist of the opposition newspaper Sözcu, Uğur Dundar, said that "the decision to supply heavy weapons to the Democratic Union Party (DYP) wing  -  the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which is essentially a unit of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), in fact led the US-Turkish relations to the threshold of a deep crisis". The former US ambassador to Turkey, James Jeffrey even called Trump's decision "a betrayal from Turkey's point of view" and suggested a possible decision by the Turkish leadership to cut off US access to Incirlik Air Base, which is the easternmost base of the US Air Force and NATO.

Given the importance of any decision by the United States on Syria and Iraq for Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan started prepping for the meeting in Washington very seriously. He sent a delegation to Washington, consisting of the Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar, the head of the National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan and the adviser to the President of Turkey Ibrahim Kalin. During a meeting with senior officials from the US Presidential Administration, the delegation set out a list of issues that Erdogan would like to discuss with Trump. Among these issues, the most sensitive was the cooperation of the US military with Kurdish self-defense units, which are considered as a terrorist organization by Turkey. Trump knew perfectly well the importance of this issue for his NATO partner.

According to the former Turkish ambassador to the United States, retired diplomat Mustafa Şükrü Elekdağ, Trump decided to supply heavy weapons to the Syrian Kurds following the meetings held by the Turkish delegation in Washington. "The operation to liberate Raqqa will be carried out together with DYP/YPG. They will be armed in accordance with the terms of the war. This is my final decision and it ca not be discussed," in such a way the former ambassador described the US President Donald Trump's decision a week before the start of Erdogan's visit to Washington. Mustafa Şükrü Elekdağ called Trump's decision the next step of the US in the implementation of the geopolitical project for the creation of 'Great Kurdistan'. At this stage, the task is to connect the Kurdish autonomous region existing in the north of Iraq with the Kurdish corridor in northern Syria with access to the Mediterranean Sea. According to the former ambassador, the final stage of this project is the separation of the eastern and southeastern provinces of Turkey with significant Kurdish population.

A columnist of the Hürriyet newspaper, Fikret Bila, writes that the day before the meeting, it may be concluded that it will become a turning point in the relations between the two countries under either outcome. "If Erdogan manages to convince Trump to abandon the decision to arm the YPG, it will be a turning point and will serve to strengthen Turkish-US relations. On the contrary, if Trump does not give up his decision, it will be a turning point for further worsening of the already crisis relations between the two countries," the columnist stressed. The newspaper writes that Erdogan is aware of the complexity of changing the White House's decision, but at the same time he does not rule out Washington's opinion shift.

A columnist of the Milliyet newspaper Nagehan Alçı told about Erdogan's meeting with journalists in Beijing, where he arrived to participate in the One Belt One Road international economic forum. She pays special attention to Erdogan's reaction regarding the assertions of Turkey's passive role and its participation in the fight against ISIS (a terrorist organization banned in Russia) and calls it "a slander by the Obama administration". The column by Nagehan Alçı is focused on the issue of Trump's decision to supply weapons to the Syrian Kurds and highlights the words of the Turkish President said before a difficult meeting in Washington: "The final decision will be taken after the meeting. If we are strategic allies we must take decisions as an alliance. If the alliance is to be overshadowed we'll have to sort things out for ourselves". There is an impression that Erdogan is already ready for the worst option.

The Haber Turk newspaper writes that, in fact, the US military cooperated with the Syrian Kurds from the very beginning of the operation against ISIS in Syria and supplied them with weapons. Despite Turkey's admonition of its ally, the Americans have always denied the supply of weapons to the Kurdish self-defense units, thereby attempting to deceive Turkey. A columnist of the newspaper Özcan Tikit tried to find a positive moment in this matter: "With this decision towards its longtime ally in the region, the US has taken a heavy load on its shoulders, As long as the RKK does not voluntarily renounce terror and announce a self-dissolution, the United States has no way to get rid of this load".

In the case of a negative for Turkey outcome of the meeting at the White House, theoretically Erdogan still has one more attempt to suspend Trump's decision to supply weapons to the Syrian Kurds. On May 25, a summit of Heads of State and Government of the member countries of the North Atlantic Alliance will open in Brussels, which will be attended by President Donald Trump. In principle, such strong NATO members as France, the UK and Germany can persuade the US president to abandon his decision to arm the Syrian Kurds. But the trouble for Turkey is that Erdogan ruined his relations with the EU countries, including Germany, before the referendum on April 16. It is unlikely that the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel or Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whom Erdogan accused of fascism after the ban on holding rallies in Germany and the Netherlands with the participation of Turkish state officials before the referendum, will support Turkey's demand to renounce the derision on arming Syrian Kurds. So far it seems that for the first time since the Cyprus crisis of 1974, Turkey found itself in such a difficult situation.


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