Erdoğan to discuss Halkbank indictment during meeting with Trump: report

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A photo shows the logo of the Turkish Halkbank on December 2, 2017 in Istanbul. AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

President Tayyip Erdoğan has said he will discuss the case of Turkish lender Halkbank with US President Donald Trump during talks in Washington next week, Reuters reported, citing local broadcaster NTV.

Erdoğan’s visit comes as ties between the NATO allies are strained over a host of issues including Ankara’s offensive to drive Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters from a “safe zone” in northeast Syria, the threat of US sanctions and Halkbank.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Oct. 16 charged Halkbank with taking part in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran. Turkey has said the case is political, and Halkbank has denied the charges.

“We believe it will be beneficial to discuss certain issues that we tackled before and some that we did not during face-to-face talks on Nov. 13,” Erdoğan told reporters on his return flight from Hungary, according to NTV.

The two countries have been at odds over Ankara’s purchase of a Russian S-400 defense system, which Washington says threatens its F-35 fighters jets. Turkey, which was both a customer and co-producer of parts for the fighter jets, faces potential US sanctions and has been suspended from the F-35 program.

“Of course, we will discuss the safe zone in Syria and the return of refugees. We will discuss the S-400s, F-35s, our $100 billion trade volume issue. We will also discuss the battle with FETO and the Halkbank issue,” he said, referring to the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Ankara accuses Gülen of orchestrating a 2016 failed coup, a charge he has denied, and has repeatedly demanded that Washington extradite him. Erdoğan said last month that Turkey would not extradite criminals to the United States unless it received the cleric.

Turkish officials said earlier this week that Erdoğan might call off the US visit in protest at votes by US lawmakers to seek sanctions on Turkey over its offensive into northeast Syria and recognize mass killings of Armenians a century ago as genocide. But the visit was later confirmed after a phone call between Erdoğan and Trump on Wednesday.

On Thursday, less than a week ahead of his visit, Erdoğan blamed the United States and Russia for failing to fulfill their part of a deal for the YPG, which Ankara views as a terrorist group, to leave a strip of land along its borders with Syria.

He told reporters on the return flight that he would discuss developments in Syria with Trump and added that he would speak on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday to “form the basis” of his talks in Washington, according to NTV.

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