Turkish FM meets Trump national security advisor-designate Flynn

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Michael Flynn (L) and Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in Washington, D.C., to attend President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, met on Wednesday with Trump’s national security advisor-designate, Michael Flynn.

The Turkish state news agency reported that the two met over breakfast to discuss bilateral relations.

Retired Gen. Flynn had said in a video recorded at a meeting on July 15 that he had information from Turkish military colleagues that there was a coup attempt going on in Turkey against the Islamist government and that it was worth applauding.

Flynn had praised the military for its loyalty to Western values, democracy and secularism, and the military criticizes President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for turning Turkey towards Islamism.

“There is an ongoing coup in Turkey right now. I was just talking with a friend of mine [in the Turkish military about the coup attempt] who trained with us in the Turkish military. … The Turkish military has been excised for many years by what really became a secular country and then began to move towards Islamism. This is Turkey under Erdoğan, who is actually very close to [US] President [Barack] Obama. I’ll be fascinated to see what happens [after the coup]. Because If the military succeeds … they already announced that they are very much aware of their responsibilities in NATO and the UN and want the world to know Turkey is a secular nation,” he said.

When the audience started applauding Flynn, he finished his talk by saying, “This is the military and worth applauding.”

In September, Flynn’s security consulting company, Flynn Intel Group, filed a lobbying disclosure which states that Flynn’s firm would advise Innova BV, a firm based in Holland and owned by Ekim Alptekin, an ally of Erdoğan and also chairman of the Turkish American Business Council, on US domestic and foreign policy and congressional appropriations bills for the State Department.

Flynn also wrote an op-ed for Washington-based The Hill on Nov. 8, just hours before Trump was declared president-elect, in which he repeatedly praised Erdoğan and called on the next president of the US to extradite US-based Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen to Turkey since Erdoğan accuses him of masterminding a failed coup in Turkey on July 15.

Turkish authorities claim Gülen, who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999, was the mastermind behind the violent coup attempt that killed over 240 people and injured a thousand others, while Gülen strongly denies any involvement.

The Turkish government and President Erdoğan have designated the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by Gülen and operating charities, schools and businesses around the world, as a terrorist organization and have launched a widespread crackdown on suspected members since the failed coup. More than 135,000 have been dismissed from state jobs, close to 90,000 detained and in excess of 42,000 arrested by Turkey over links to Gülen.

While Erdoğan and the Turkish government have demanded Gülen’s extradition from the US and shut down schools linked with the movement, US officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, have several times said that it is the US courts that will decide on Gülen’s extradition if a case is filed against him with concrete evidence that demonstrates his involvement in a crime.

The position of Flynn in national security briefings that began in summer has been questioned by the US media due to his ties with the Dutch firm linked to Turkey’s President Erdoğan, for providing all-source intelligence support.

According to a copy of a Memorandum of Understanding signed on election day and released by House Democrats, the Trump transition team, as a condition of receiving government briefing materials, was required to provide a statement to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough that all designated members of the transition team had disclosed their financial interests and did not have any conflicts of interest.

While Trump transition officials did not respond to questions about whether Flynn had made such disclosures, US Congressman Elijah Cummings said the terms of the memorandum raise questions about whether Flynn is even eligible to continue to receive national security briefings at this point.

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