Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan railed against US lawmakers from the White House following a meeting with counterpart Donald Trump that appeared to leave key diplomatic issues unresolved.
Mr Erdogan, who described Mr Trump as a “dear friend” as he spoke at a press conference, accused the US House of Representatives of “casting a deep shadow” over the countries’ bilateral relationship.
US lawmakers have been deeply unhappy with Ankara’s behaviour in north-east Syria, which Turkish troops recently invaded, and have issued bills threatening punitive sanctions on the country.
Mr Erdogan has long insisted that Turkey is seeking to protect itself from groups it considers to be terrorists.
The Turkish president particularly took issue with a bill passed in the House late last month formally recognising the 1915 killings of an estimated 1.5m Armenians by the nationalist party in power at the end of the Ottoman Empire.
Five Republican senators — including Lindsey Graham, who has co-sponsored a bill setting out harsh sanctions on Turkey for its incursion into Syria, and Senate foreign relations committee chairman Jim Risch — attended Mr Trump’s meeting with Mr Erdogan in the Oval Office.
Mr Trump said he was a “big fan” of Mr Erdogan, praising Ankara’s military spending and thanking him for being “very, very helpful” when US forces “took out” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — a reference to the Isis leader recently killed in Syria. Mr Trump said he and Mr Erdogan has “assured each other” the ceasefire between US-allied Kurdish-dominated forces and the Turkish military would be upheld.
Little detail was offered on any talks over Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile defence system and the possibility of US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, known as Caatsa.
Mr Trump said only that Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missile system, which remains one of the biggest outstanding diplomatic issues between Ankara and Washington, posed “some very serious challenges” and that the two countries were “talking about it constantly”.
The US president was accidentally astute on the state of the Turkish media, which has come under huge pressure as Mr Erdogan has grown increasingly authoritarian in recent years. At least 117 journalists and media workers are behind bars, according to the independent journalism platform P24.
Raising the prospect of a question from a Turkish journalist, Mr Trump asked for “a friendly reporter” — a remark that reportedly prompted Mr Graham, who was watching alongside the White House press corps, to quip to the ABC correspondent alongside him: “There aren’t any others left.”
Mr Erdogan selected Hilal Kaplan, a prominent columnist with a newspaper run by the brother of his son-in-law. When her questions echoed key Turkish talking points, Mr Trump joked: “Are you sure you’re a reporter? You don’t work for Turkey, with that question?”
Following the meeting, Mr Graham said that while he appreciated being invited to discuss Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 and its military incursion into Syria with Mr Erdogan, Ankara’s offensive in the country had been “incredibly disruptive”.
Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, said Mr Trump had “let Turkey off the hook for invading Syria, causing a mass exodus of Kurds and purchasing the S-400 missile system from Russia”.
The post Erdogan accuses US lawmakers of worsening relations appeared first on Financial Times.