Trump congratulates Erdoğan on referendum win

Trump congratulates Erdoğan on referendum win

Cansu Çamlıbel – WASHINGTON
Trump congratulates Erdoğan on referendum win

AFP photo

U.S. President Donald Trump has congratulated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after he won a narrow referendum on constitutional amendments that replaced a parliamentary system with an executive presidency with vastly enhanced powers for himself. 

“President Donald J. Trump spoke today with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to congratulate him on his recent referendum victory and to discuss the United States’ action in response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons on April 4,” a readout from the White House said.

“President Trump thanked President Erdoğan for supporting this action by the United States, and the leaders agreed on the importance of holding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable.  President Trump and President Erdoğan also discussed the counter-ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] campaign and the need to cooperate against all groups that use terrorism to achieve their ends,” it said.

However, both the White House and the State Department noted the decisiveness of an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) delegation’s final report on the “irregularities” during the referendum process which had previously drew immediate reaction from Ankara.

Asked whether Washington shared those concerns on the alleged irregularities during the voting process, the White House pointed to the completion of OSCE report on the issue.

“My understanding is there’s an international commission that is reviewing this and will issue a report in 10 to 12 days. And so we’ll wait and let them do their job,” White House spokesperson Sean Spicer told a daily press briefing on April 17.

“I think at this point – I don’t think – I think we’d rather not get ahead of that report and start to make decisions without knowing.  There were observers there, as there routinely are, and I’d rather wait and see,” Spicer said.

Separately, the Department of State also urged voters and parties to focus on collaboration and dialogue in the aftermath of the referendum, while protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens regardless of their vote.

“We encourage voters and parties on both sides to focus on working together for Turkey’s future and to maintain a meaningful political dialogue. Democracies gain strength through respect for diverse points of view, especially on difficult issues,” spokesperson Mark Toner said.

When asked about the alleged irregularities, Toner said they were looking forward to the observers’ final report.

“We thank the OSCE Referendum Observation Mission for its important work and note the concerns detailed in its preliminary assessment of the conduct of the vote and campaign.  Those concerns include observed irregularities on voting day and an uneven playing field during the difficult campaign period, which took place under a state of emergency.  We look forward to the OSCE/ODIHR’s final report, which we understand will take several weeks,” he said.

“The United States remains committed to strengthening our bilateral relationship. The United States continues to support Turkey’s democratic development, to which commitment to the rule of law and a diverse and free media remain essential,” Toner said.