Columns

Trump Lauds Close 'Friend of Mine' Erdoğan as 'Getting Very High Marks'

President Trump sat down with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly today, calling the meeting a “great honor” and touting his close friendship with the Turkish leader.

“It’s a great honor and privilege — because he’s become a friend of mine — to introduce President Erdoğan of Turkey. He’s running a very difficult part of the world. He’s involved very, very strongly and, frankly, he’s getting very high marks. And he’s also been working with the United States,” Trump said before their bilateral sit-down.

“We have a great friendship as countries,” he added. “I think we’re, right now, as close as we have ever been. And a lot of that has to do with the personal relationship.”

Erdoğan thanked “my dear friend Donald” as they were poised to assess “the current relations between the United States and Turkey, as well as we will have the opportunity to discuss the recent regional developments as well.”

The evening before the meeting, the State Department issued a fresh denunciation of next Monday’s Kurdish independence referendum, which Erdoğan vehemently opposes: “The United States strongly opposes the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s referendum on independence, planned for September 25. All of Iraq’s neighbors, and virtually the entire international community, also oppose this referendum.”

Asked by a reporter today if he would “reconcile” with Erdoğan on “the Kurdish issue,” Trump replied, “We’ll be discussing many issues — many issues.”

Trump did not answer a question about violence committed by Erdoğan’s security detail against peaceful American protesters.

Erdoğan, who complained earlier this week that he’s being “defamed” as a dictator by the “very disrespectful” western media for his extensive purge of perceived opponents (including North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson, charged last month with bogus counts that could carry life in prison), says President Trump apologized to him, a charge the White House denied, for the beating up of protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in D.C. when Erdogan visited in May.

The violence unfolded as a small group of Kurdish protesters held signs and chanted across the street from the Turkish facility. Video from the scene not only shows the attack on the protesters in detail, but additional footage shows Erdoğan viewing the protests from his armored Mercedes and something being communicated to his security staff before the attack began. A dozen men and one woman wanted by U.S. law enforcement on various assault charges were identified as Turkish security officials.

Erdoğan told PBS this week that Trump “called me about a week ago about this issue — he said that he was sorry, and he told me that he was going to follow up on this issue when we come to the United States within the framework of an official visit.”

“The protesters were insulting us, and they were screaming and shouting. The police failed to intervene properly. And similar protests were seen around the White House as well when we were inside of the embassy residence. The protesters were very close to my car, to my vehicle,” he said. Video shows protesters were across the street.

“The PKK terrorists and the FETO terrorists were protesting. These police officers were officers of the state, not the federal government, but they are in charge of maintaining safety around me and security. They failed to do that,” Erdoğan continued. “And, of course, that would be the moment when my personal security would come to my aid and make sure that everything was safe and secure around me. I’m going to get together with President Trump on Thursday, and I’m going to talk about these developments in a very extensive fashion. I hope and pray that justice will be served as soon as possible, because I know that the United States is very sensitive in terms of judiciary and in terms of the rule of law and the legal aspects.”

White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told CNN in response, “The topic was discussed. There was no apology.”

The White House readout of a Sept. 9 call between the two leaders simply said that “Trump emphasized the common commitment of the United States and Turkey to work together to increase regional stability.”