Interesting differences between Erdoğan’s and Obama’s statements
While I was reading the files that piled up on my desk after the Bayram holiday, some interesting details about the phone conversation between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama Aug. 7 caught my attention.
Let’s highlight the significance of this conversation first. Obama and Erdoğan talked for the first time after the coup that took place on July 3 in Egypt. The previous conversation was on June 24 upon Obama’s request and the agenda was Syria as well as the Gezi Park incidents and freedoms of expression and assembly. Almost 1.5 months passed between two talks.
Statements issued by the Office of the Prime Ministry and the White House about the Aug. 7 conversation that occurred upon Erdoğan’s request look as if they are the same text at first glance. However when viewed with a magnifying glass, certain differences emerge.
For example, in the statement posted on the White House website reads, “The President gave his best wishes to the Prime Minister and the Turkish people on the beginning of their Ramazan holiday.”
On the other hand, in the statement posted on the Office of the Prime Ministry’s website, the phrase “Turkish people” does not exist. Obama’s Bayram greetings are as follows in that statement: “The U.S. President during the meeting saluted the Prime Minister’s Ramadan holiday.”
Comparing the two texts shows an interesting difference too. There is this expression in the Prime Ministry’s statement: “During the meeting when Prime Minister Erdoğan and U.S. President Obama expressed their concerns about the activities of extremists in Syria…”
In the White House statement, this topic has been expressed as such: “The President and Prime Minister discussed the danger of foreign extremists in Syria.”
In the White House statement, there is a strong emphasis on the “foreign extremists” factor whereas in the Prime Ministry’s statement there is no reference to the “foreign” component.
On the other hand, the view, “the importance of supporting a unified and inclusive Syrian opposition” is voiced with almost same expressions in both statements.
The difference emerges at the emphasis on “foreign.” What is meant here particularly is the al-Nusra organization associated with al-Qaeda fighting against Bashar al-Assad with its militants coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Chechnya. There is no doubt that Obama and Erdoğan discussed the al-Nusra file.
However, when it comes to the pronunciation of foreign factors, it is apparent that Ankara opted to remain silent. It can be said that Ankara is acting so as not to give the impression that it is particularly addressing al-Nusra or provoking this group.
Further scanning the texts, Obama and Erdoğan have discussed the developments in Egypt in their phone conversation. In the Prime Ministry’s statement, it referred to the “concern about the violence in Egypt” while in the American statement there is a reference to “concern about the situation in Egypt.”
With the “violence” expression, Erdoğan is demonstrating a strong stance especially against the Abdel Fattah al-Sisi administration’s firing on Mohamed Morsi supporters and killing civilians. Whereas, Obama, probably having said nothing different during the conversation, when it is time to make a public statement, prefers to stay away from such a reference.
Meanwhile, it can also be highlighted that the Turkish side, when the topic is Egypt, issued a statement where the definition coup is not included. Again, it is important that in both statements, a joint stance of “supporting a democratic and inclusive way forward” in Egypt has been announced.
Another one of the common denominators of both statements is the declaration that Erdoğan and Obama will continue to coordinate closely.
However, there is also an interesting situation here. In the White House statement, it said, “The two leaders agreed to have their teams continue to coordinate closely to promote our shared interests.”
In the Prime Ministry’s statement, however, it read, “In order to protect Turkey’s and the USA’s shared affairs, there was an agreement on a closer joint effort between the two countries and a more comprehensive cooperation.”
In Ankara’s statement, stronger commitments such as “closer effort, more comprehensive cooperation” demonstrate how strong Erdoğan’s will is to move at a close platform with the U.S. despite certain differences of opinion.
Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet, in which this piece was published on Aug. 13. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.