Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday that he would consider meeting with US President Donald Trump during the United Nations General Assembly in New York if a request comes from the Americans, underlining that no meeting is planned as of yet.
“We will consider it if a request comes from the US. Nothing is on the agenda for the time being,” Erdoğan said regarding a possible meeting with Trump, at a news conference at an İstanbul airport ahead of his visit to New York.
Recalling his meeting with representatives of American companies in Turkey last week, Erdoğan added that he would also meet with CEOs of key US businesses in addition to community representatives including Turks and Muslims.
Tensions between the US and Turkey have escalated in recent months over the detention of Andrew Brunson, a Christian evangelical pastor facing terrorism-related charges tied to a failed 2016 coup.
The US slapped sanctions on two Turkish government ministers earlier August, and Turkey responded by sanctioning two US Cabinet secretaries.
When Trump doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey, Erdoğan retaliated with tariffs on alcohol, cars and tobacco and the threat of a boycott on American electronics.
The spat has deepened troubles for the already struggling Turkish economy, and helped drive a more than 40 percent decline in the lira this year.
Erdoğan last September called on Washington to swap Brunson for Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in the US who Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government accuse of orchestrating the failed coup in 2016, although Gülen and the group he inspired deny any involvement.
Turkey’s presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said during a press conference on Sept. 21 that the Turkish government would continue its global manhunt for followers of the Gülen movement, stating that the operation could extend to the US as well.
Kalin said “our relevant units” would continue their operations against FETO just like the one in Kosovo, whether it be the in US or any other country. “FETO” is an abbreviation for the Gülen movement coined by the Turkish government to label the movement as a terrorist organization.