Tabnak – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will have a meeting today at the White House with his American counterpart Donald Trump. Erdogan’s visit comes a short time after he managed to gain a victory in the referendum to change the Turkish constitution and at the time of sporadic tensions with the US over the Syrian issue.
Radio Free Europe writes in a report that the White House meeting comes amid intense and complex international diplomacy over the war in Syria, where Turkey and the United States both support forces in opposition to President Bashar al-Assad's government.
But Ankara and Washington are at odds over some aspects of the conflict as well as other issues that may be in focus during the visit. In this vein, Erdogan is expected to press the United States to refrain from arming Syrian Kurdish rebels that Ankara considers to be terrorists.
In a separate report, CNN notes although Turkey and the United States are key NATO allies, their relationship has been complicated by the US's strategy on Syria, and by Washington's refusal to extradite a Turkish cleric who Erdogan claims was behind the failed coup in Turkey last year.
Turkey lashed out last week after the Pentagon announced plans to arm members of the Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG) fighting ISIS in Syria. Erdogan called for the plan to be "reversed immediately" and promised his supporters he'd discuss the issue with Trump at the White House meeting on Tuesday.
According to the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah, US officials tried their best to prevent the Trump administration's latest announcement on arming the Kurds from happening prior to Erdogan's visit. Turkish officials were afraid that if the decision was announced, the first direct contact between Erdogan and Trump could be moody and problematic.
The reports also suggest that apart from the Syrian case, Erdogan is expected to continue to pressure the United States to extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish president blames for an attempted coup last July, and to drop an Iran sanctions case against a wealthy Turkish-Iranian businessman.
Analysis about Erdogan’s US visit are numerous and varied in terms of the purposes and possible achievements. "It’s hugely symbolic,” Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the D.C. foreign policy think tank the Washington Institute, says to the Newsweek of Erdogan’s visit.
Under fire for a contested referendum that vastly expanded his executive power, as well as his governIment’s crackdown on dissidents and civil society after an attempted coup last summer, Erdogan is desperate for affirmation from abroad, Cagaptay says.
He notes that in Erdogan’s speech following the constitutional referendum, which has been tainted by claims of fraud, the longtime president implored foreign leaders to recognize the results, "an exceptionally unusual” move for a Turkish politician.
In another report, NPR writes that it seems unlikely that Trump would change his mind on the Kurdish issue after a face-to-face meeting, considering the decision to arm the Kurds was calculated over many months. Defense officials specifically waited to announce it until after a referendum that enabled Erdogan to consolidate authority in his country, so he would feel more secure in his power.
However, the Washington Post believes that if Turkey cannot offer a meaningful alternative to the U.S. reliance on the Kurds, it also lacks effective threats to force the Americans to reconsider. It can attempt to open up another front against the Kurds or close access to its air bases as a way of demonstrating its dissatisfaction, but this is unlikely to significantly undermine the campaign against ISIS and will merely act to push the U.S. further into the arms of the YPG.