President Trump has invited a small group of Republican senators who focus on foreign policy matters to the White House for his meeting Wednesday with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – as an opportunity to “clear the air,” according to a report.
The president sought the meeting — which will include Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch — amid widespread Capitol Hill criticism of Erdoğan and Ankara’s recent actions in Syria, CNN reported.
A source familiar with the meeting told CNN that it was being described as an opportunity to “clear the air” by having a frank discussion about the real fissures in the relationship, including US outrage over Turkey’s purchase of Russian weapons.
But the source also admitted that the meeting is very irregular and that no one is sure what to expect.
Risch, who has criticized Erdoğan and his country’s actions, has been drafting a bipartisan sanctions bill targeting Ankara.
But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are also aware that Turkey is a NATO ally — and one likely to gravitate toward Russia if the disputes with Washington continue to mount.
The most vocal congressional critics have included some of Trump’s closest allies, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who has warned Erdoğan about the repercussions of his actions.
Other Republicans planning to attend the meeting also have been sharply critical, a source told CNN, declining to name all attendees until the White House announced the list.
The meeting, which is closed to press, is listed on the president’s schedule as “a legislative engagement with select members of the Senate.”
Erdoğan’s visit comes a month after Trump withdrew US troops from Syria, sparking a Turkish invasion and prompting criticism from some GOP lawmakers. It also comes a week after Congress passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide.
Lawmakers from both parties have called for Trump to rescind the invitation to Erdoğan entirely, but the White House has declined to do so.
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