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Trump had talks with 15 foreign leaders, what is the outcome of Ankara’s lobbying and Erdogan’s praising words over Trump?

Ilhan Tanir

On Sunday, President Trump had talks with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, UAE and South Korea. On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined the list of the leaders President Trump talked to. Attack on a Quebec City mosque on Sunday night was the one of the main topics they discussed.

After his inauguration on January 20th, the number of the foreign leaders Trump had talks via phone or face-to-face has been 14 after Prime minister Trudeau. Jordanian King Abdullah is in Washington this week and met with Vice President Pence on Monday. On Thursday, King will meet with President Trump. With King’s meeting, the number of foreign leaders Trump met will increase to 15. It was reported that King Abdullah will press President Trump with his expectation from the new administration of more aggressive approach on ISIS.

Among the leaders Trump had talks with, Israeli Prime minister and Egyptian president Sisi have praised President Trump publicly. In addition to these leaders, Turkish president Erdogan is also known with his praising words about Trump since November 2016 election. He even criticized the demonstrations against Trump during a meeting with Muslim representatives at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Meeting on November 23th and defended him, saying that Trump’s campaign promises should not be taken into account and they will eventually change.

Lobbying Efforts

Erdogan sent Foreign Minister Cavusoglu to the Trump’s inauguration to show his eagerness to work with Trump administration. In spite of the fact no foreign leaders was invited to the inauguration, the reporting that Mr. Cavusoglu was specially invited to the event was found to be not correct by WHatti. It was also reported that Mr. Cavusoglu attended one of the inauguration balls/galas along with the Dogan group’s representatives and had photos taken with Defense Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Candidate Tillerson.

In past months M. Ali Yalcindag who had to resign from his position at Dogan Group as CEO stayed in New York City for months and spent his time between NYC and Washington DC reportedly for lobbying efforts over the new administration. As it can be recalled that Mr. Yalcindag shared his pictures of him attending Trump’s victory speech on the election night and that he publicly expressed his views of happiness with Trump’s victory.

Mr. Yalcindag was in news recently with his involvement about informing a media group close to AKP government with what has been happening in Dogan Media Group. After this scandal surfaced, he had to resign from his CEO position. Naturally, Trump’s victory was a very fortunate news for him since he has been known as Trump’s business partner in Turkey. At that time, Dogan Group’s representative in Ankara was jailed and another two high ranking officials were jailed and released few days later.

It was reported earlier that National Security Advisor to Trump, Michael Flynn has had business transactions in regard to Turkish government’s lobbying efforts through a Dutch based company which has closed ties with AKP government. According to some Washington sources, the way this relationship was reported in the media and the fact that he did not disclose his relation with this company on the op-ed column he wrote about Turkey on the Hill might have put his positions on Turkey into a disadvantageous position. In other words, it would make Gen. Flynn to advocate on behalf of Turkey.

The only question about Turkey among 114 written questions from Ranking Democrat Senator Ben Cardin after the hearings of Rex Tillerson at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee turned out to be in regard to Flynn’s relationship with the Dutch based company which is described to be in the question as very close ties with AKP government.

It is only Trump’s 11th day and it is very early to predict in which direction his relationship with Turkey and Erdogan will go.  Although Obama’s first overseas trip was to Turkey, the relations never got back on track with Turkish government after the Gezi demonstrations in 2013.

For now, Trump’s 15th contact seems to be Jordanian King Abdullah II. It seems that all lobbying efforts and goodwill messages from AKP government have not resulted in what Turkish government hoped for. Instead, Trump spoke with Saudi and UAE for safe zones in Syria, while Turkey has 3 million Syrian refugees and next to Syria.

Turkish side anxiously expecting Trump’s phone call to Erdogan. While waiting for the call, the media close to Erdogan continues to defend Trump in spite of his most recent executive order with immigration ban on seven Muslim majority nations.

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