Turkey, US have friendly talks but differences remain
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump had wonderful talks, according to Trump, yet the bilateral meetings did not yield any concrete result between the two NATO allies.
Erdoğan arrived at the White House for his meeting with Trump, which was scheduled for more than three hours.
His last visit to Washington was in 2017.
The closed-door meeting lasted for about 65 minutes. Trump was scheduled to meet select senators before the leaders' press conference.
The Turkish president also joined the sit-down with Republican senators.
Erdoğan and Trump meeting's agenda covered bilateral relations, foreign policy issues and the recent developments in the region and around the globe.
During the meeting, the leaders tackled the extradition of FETÖ, a topic Ankara has repeatedly emphasized, the current situation in Syria- especially Washington's approach towards the YPG/PKK terror group, and Turkey's acquisition of Russian S-400 defense systems.
FETÖ and its U.S.-based ringleader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the July 15 defeated coup attempt of 2016, which left 251 people killed and nearly 2,200 injured.
'Erdoğan returns Trump's letter'
Erdoğan said that he returned a letter by his U.S. counterpart that threatened Ankara over its anti-terror "Operation Peace Spring" in northeastern Syria and bemoaned Washington's treatment of the YPG/PKK terror group's leader.
"I presented the letter to Mr. President and especially felt sorrow that a U.S. president took a terrorist called Ferhat Abdi Şahin as an addressee," said Erdoğan.
The president's remarks came at a press conference, after his meeting with Trump.
Şahin, also known as Mazloum Kobani, is the ringleader of the PYD/YPG, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror organization. Trump repeatedly praised the terrorist leader and said he looks forward to seeing him.
Erdoğan said Şahin has caused the deaths of hundreds of Turkish people and is the adopted son of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK terrorist organization.
"That the U.S., which we call our strategic partner, welcomes such a person actually saddens us. Likewise, this person is welcomed by Russia. It is hard to comprehend this within the scope of the fight against terrorism across the world," said Erdoğan.
The letter Trump sent to Erdoğan on Oct. 9 threatened Turkey with economic devastation if Ankara proceeded with its operation in northeastern Syria. It was also widely criticized as rude and ill-written.
Erdoğan also said he submitted some CIA documents which suggested that Şahin is a terrorist.
"The CIA also documented him as a terrorist and they sent us these documents, and then we presented them to Mr. President today. We also returned the letter likewise," Erdoğan added, without elaborating how the intelligence organization provided the documents to Ankara.
'Thousands died from delay in Syrian safe zone'
The president also put emphasis on the to-be established safe zone in northern Syria, saying tens of thousands of people died because a safe zone was not implemented quickly enough.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey's borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria's territorial integrity.
On Oct. 17, the U.S. and Turkey came to an agreement to pause the operation to allow the withdrawal of terrorist YPG/PKK forces from the planned safe zone, where Ankara wants to repatriate millions of Syrian refugees it is currently hosting.
Turkey first requested the establishment of the safe zone during a G20 meeting in Antalya in 2015.
Erdoğan said that during the operation, Turkey secured the return of 365,000 Syrians to Jarablus, the northern border town that was cleared during the operation.
He also reiterated that Turkey "has no problem with Kurds" and only takes issue with terrorist organizations.
Erdoğan added that "Turkey and the U.S. can work together to bring peace, stability to Syria and completely finish" the ISIL terror organization.
Regarding the anti-ISIL fight, Trump said Turkey is helping "a lot" in the effort, capturing all ISIL terrorists escaping prisons controlled by the YPG/PKK.
For his part, Trump said the meetings with Erdoğan and his senior officials were "very productive."
Trump said the discussions were "wonderful" during a joint press conference that took place an hour after its original start time due to the protracted conversations.
"The U.S.-Turkish alliance can be a powerful force for security and stability, not only in the Middle East, but beyond. I look forward to working with you,” Trump said, referring to Erdoğan.
'Turkey's S-400 acquisition creates challenges for US'
The U.S. president hailed Turkey as a "great NATO ally" after he and Erdoğan discussed a range of topics that spanned an ongoing row over Ankara's acquisition of the Russian S-400 anti-air system, the F-35 joint strike fighter, bilateral trade and a pause in Turkey's operation in northern Syria.
Trump said he and Erdoğan have directed their senior officials to "immediately work on resolving the S-400 issue.”
Turkey's acceptance of the S-400, Trump said, "creates some very serious challenges for us, and we are talking about it constantly."
"We talked about it today. We will talk about it in the future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to resolve that situation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan said that he offered high-level talks for a solution.
“We said let’s start the work by putting our defense ministries into effect with the coordination of [Presidential Spokesman İbrahim] Kalın and [U.S.] National Security Advisor [Robert] O’Brien and see the results. Because they say that ‘the S-400 is not a system that is coordinated with F-35,’” Erdoğan told reporters on his way back from Washington.
He added that Turkey have not procured any F-35 fighter jets even though she paid $1.4 billion out of $2.4 billion.
“We always say this: we are not clients, we are partners,” Erdoğan added. “I hope we will get a positive result from the discussions.”
The president also conveyed that Trump was more “positive” when compared with the prior meetings.
“I saw a more constructive approach,” he said.
Erdoğan also underlined that the $100 billion trade volume target of the U.S. and Turkey was also tackled between the delegations’ meetings.
Erdoğan said that he also conveyed Turkey’s strategic relations with Russia, during the Trump meeting, regarding the natural gas pipelines.
“They say, ‘It’s your right, but go over the S-400s with tractor.’ We said doing such a thing is not possible,” he said.
“We strategically cannot put away such relations regarding these products. Russia has surpassed all countries in tourism and is our number one partner,” he said. Erdoğan also added that about 6.5 million Russian tourists came to Turkey in 2018.
When asked about the booklet and video Turkish officials provided to the U.S. on the Turkey’s fight against the YPG/PKK and FETÖ terrorist organizations, Erdoğan said that Trump was “pretty impressed.”
“In my opinion, Mr. President was pretty impressed after watching the video,” he said.