Erdoğan ends Mexico visit early with surprise landing in US
Tolga Tanış - Washington / Mexico
Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (R) and Turkey's President Tayyip Erdoğan hold documents after signing a bilateral agreement, during an official welcoming ceremony at the National Palace in Mexico City Feby 12. REUTERS PhotoTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has concluded his America tour one day earlier than planned, skipping a visit to pre-Columbian pyramids in Mexico and making an unscheduled stop in the United States.
Erdoğan was hosted by Juan Antonio Gonzalez, the chairman of Gruma, the largest manufacturer of corn flour and tortillas in the world, at a dinner in Mexico City on Feb. 12. After the dinner, he decided to return to Turkey earlier than planned, according to Anadolu Agency.
The presidential plane made an unscheduled stop at an airport in the U.S. on his way back to Turkey on Feb. 13. The plane stayed at the George Bush International Airport in Houston for about three hours before it took off.
Although the range of the presidential plane is enough to fly from Mexico to Turkey non-stop, the plane landed in Houston for refuelling, according to reports.
At the airport, Erdoğan also met with Turkey's Washington Ambassador Serdar Kılıç, who was called to Houston late Feb. 12.
A Turkish official who spoke to Hürriyet on condition of anonymity said the change in the program was "technical," reminding that Erdoğan had ended several previous visits earlier than the schedule.
Erdoğan's original schedule in Mexico had included a Feb. 13 visit to Teotihuacan, located 48 km northeast of modern-day Mexico City. The ancient city is known today as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas.
President Erdoğan attracted international attention after claiming in a Nov. 15 speech that America was discovered by Muslims, adding that Christopher Columbus mentioned seeing a mosque on top of a hill in Cuba in his memoirs. On the Cuba leg of his Latin America tour on Feb. 11, Erdoğan presented President Raul Castro with Ankara’s proposal to build a mosque in Havana.
Although Columbus is the first European explorer whose voyages in the 1490s led to the first lasting European contact with the Americas, the earliest “widespread” habitation of the continent is dated around 16,500–13,000 years ago.