Ilhan Tanir, Washington DC
Senior officials from the State Department held a conference call on Monday for reviewing Secretary Tillerson’s travel to Turkey. WHatti asked the question to see whether the Secretary will be able to meet any of the opposition parties or other opposition figures, journalists during his visit which is going to come just before the referendum.
State Department senior official stated that Secretary “is going to meet only with governments ministers, and the staff of the U.S. Embassy.” Tillerson is going to also meet with President Erdogan.” Senior official stated the reason he can’t meet with opposition figures because “his schedule doesn’t allow time to meet with anyone else.”
Officials summarized three things for Tillerson to do in Ankara when the Secretary visits, “first to offer condolences to the Turkish people for their losses to terrorism over the years..” Second “to recognize Turkey as a key partner in the counter-ISIL – coalition to defeat ISIS, and to appreciate their contributions in that effort, and finally, to exchange views on a broad range of issues with which we share interests with Turkey – not only Syria and Iraq, but also Cyprus, Iran, and also trade and investment.”
Secretary will not veer from the importance of press freedom
When asked whether Secretary Tillerson will bring up the issue of jailed journalists and press freedom, Senior official said that US firmly believes “that freedom of expression, including freedom of speech and the media, even speech which some find controversial or uncomfortable, strengthens democracy and needs to be protected. And we consistently urge Turkey to respect and ensure freedom of expression, fair trial guarantees, judicial independence, and other human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is my expectation that the Secretary will not veer from that line in his conversations.”