GOP senators confronted Erdogan over video, participants say

Friday, 15 Nov, 2019

During a meeting in the Oval Office Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pulled out an iPad to show a small group of Republican senators and President Donald Trump a propaganda video casting the Kurds in a negative light, according to a GOP source familiar with the situation.

"Erdogan could have lost but there's not much he could have won", said Selim Sazak, research director at Ankara consultancy TUM Strategy.

Topping that list was the military operation Turkey launched in northeast Syria last month and Ankara's purchase of Russian missiles over the summer.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Donald Trump discussed Turkey's plans to establish a "safe zone" east of the Euphrates River in Syria in a phone call on Sunday (6 October), but the White House said US forces would not be involved.

Despite his warm welcome, the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have been at loggerheads for months now and their ties hit a new crisis point last month over Syria, after Erdogan began a cross-border incursion against America's Kurdish allies and upended the US presence there.

The Turkish president apparently pulled out his iPad and showed the room a Turkish propaganda video depicting USA -allied Kurdish fighters as terrorists, Axios reported.

The US kicked Turkey out of its F-35 fighter jet programme earlier this year, saying the Turkey-Russia deal put US surveillance technologies at risk.

Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia plus worldwide experts to tackle the issue.

Kurdish and US flags are flown during a pro-Kurdish rally protesting Erdogan's visit outside the White House on Wednesday.

Trump has been less supportive, allowing Erdoğan a clear path to invade Kurdish-held northern Syrian territory by withdrawing USA forces.

Erdogan added that despite the events, Turkey is still committed to its ceasefire agreement with the USA, but "some circles" have been unsympathetic toward Turkey and are clouding "the understanding of the public opinion".

Trump confronted a bipartisan backlash when he abruptly introduced final month that he would take away roughly 1,000 troops from northern Syria forward of a deliberate Turkish invasion. Erdogan said last week he is contemplating a buy of the Russian Su-35 if the American F-35 continues to be withheld.

"Erdogan certainly has the rhetoric to rally the broad masses around the flag". Reporters were briefly invited in to see the lawmakers raise their foreign policy concerns with Erdogan - specifically addressing the sale of Russian weapons to Turkey and Turkey's conflicts with the Kurds.

Geopolitical tensions between Washington and Ankara have been exacerbated by the U.S. war drive against Iran, upon which Turkey depends as a major provider of energy. Halkbank is accused of carrying out a scheme to evade sanctions against Iran by moving billions of dollars of Iranian oil revenue illegally.

"This visit of President Erdogan is critical as both Erdogan and Trump had to address strategic issues important for the two allies", commented political analyst Murat Yetkin.

According to NBC News, the meeting scheduled to take place today is crucial, according to a Trump administration official.

"I think Erdogan is playing to his domestic audience".

Yetkin observed the US president had a hard task improving relations with Ankara in a domestic atmosphere where he risks impeachment from opponents who want Turkey to be punished. Ankara has long called for his extradition.

Gulen has denied that allegation. European diplomats said a compromise was possible, and both sides were signaling they wanted one.

"Despite the acrimony, they want to keep the relationship in some form and don't want to break it up".

Asked after his meeting whether Turkey would consider not activating the S-400s, Erdogan told reporters Ankara can not harm its relations with Russian Federation. "The cease-fire is holding very well", Trump said.

Having senators in an Oval Office meeting between the president and a foreign leader is highly unusual.

She added: "Trump is not omnipotent in delivering Turkey's demands".

In a briefing with reporters Thursday afternoon, Risch emphasized that Trump at no point interrupted to contradict Senate Republicans' warnings to the Turkish head of point out that they could drive to impose sanctions.

"Overall, this visit will provide a photo opportunity for leaders, help them buy time and postpone the resolution of several multi-layer conflicts between the two countries".