Speaking with reporters on his way back to Turkey from an official visit to Africa, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he hopes to meet US President Donald Trump as soon as possible to re-evaluate Turkish-US relations.
“We spoke on the phone that first night. Of course, we would like to make our first official visit, too,” Erdoğan said as he expressed interest in meeting Trump before “it gets too late.”
According to Erdoğan, the “strategic relations” between Turkey and the US are not currently in good condition. “We are two NATO countries, but we cannot say that there is the solidarity on the issue of the Middle East that two NATO countries should have,” Erdoğan said amid high expectations for the Trump administration among pro-government circles in Turkey.
Erdoğan added that he hopes to learn what Trump’s remarks on NATO meant during bilateral talks. Trump has been critical of NATO, calling the largest Western security alliance “obsolete” shortly before his inauguration last week.
Several days ago ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Gaziantep deputy Şamil Tayyar accused NATO of masterminding military coups in Turkey and said the international organization has become a terror group.
“NATO a terror organization,” read the headline of the pro-government Milat daily on Jan. 23, quoting remarks from Tayyar, who had given an interview to the paper.
As far as a request from Turkey to extradite Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen is concerned, Erdoğan said that “for sure” the issue would come up with Trump as Turkey will ask about its status. Although Turkey has been accusing Gülen of leading a terrorist network, no evidence of such claims have been submitted to the US.
In response to a question on Syria, Erdoğan said there is no need for Turkish forces to go beyond the al-Bab region in its operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Erdoğan reiterated his allegations that the US was arming Kurdish fighters in Syria. “What happened to the arms that the US provided? They were delivered to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party [PYD], the People’s Protection Units [YPG] and even ISIL,” Erdoğan claimed.