Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is attempting to put a positive spin on his Washington encounter with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, calling it a “new awakening” in bilateral relations.
But behind joint commitments “to work together in the war against terrorism,” reaction has been cool in Turkey, with a recognition that the much-heralded “pivotal” encounter failed to deliver any breakthrough in ongoing points of bilateral tension.
“Trump, Erdogan seek to strengthen ties: White House,” read a less than enthusiastic headline of the pro-Erdogan Turkish Yeni Safak newspaper.
“It was an important meeting, but to qualify it as pivotal, some long-lasting big-time decisions have to be made. This was no such meeting,” said Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar of the Carnegie Institute in Brussels, adding, “On many issues which continue to divide Turkey and the U.S., there does not seem to be a particular convergence.”
Erdogan had pledged to seek to reverse Trump’s decision to arm the Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG, in its fight against the Islamic State. Ankara accuses the militia of being a terrorist organization affiliated with the PKK, which is fighting the Turkish State.
“Erdogan was hoping to use his much-vaunted persuasive skills in high-level meetings when he met Trump,” noted Atilla Yesilada, a political consultant of Global Source Partners.
But the Turkish president had little opportunity to persuade Trump, with his meeting lasting only a reported 22 minutes. The two leaders’ meeting was followed by a luncheon involving officials from both sides.
“The fact the initial meeting was so short is another indication that this was essentially a preparatory meeting where many issues on the bilateral relationship were not discussed in depth,” noted analyst Ulgen.