By Ilhan TanirPresident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrived at Washington DC on Monday around evening hours and proceeded to stay overnight at the Blair House, known as the guesthouse of the White House.
Erdoğan’s visit in the capital was a little over 24 hours.
Before his arrival, Washington chapter of Turkish Religious Affairs sent out an email to their congregation, calling all American Muslims to come out for a “meeting” with Erdoğan where he would be giving a speech. In spite of such invitations, Erdoğan’s convoy did not even get close to the crowd gathered for him, but directly took him to his residence.
Although there were arrangements for free bus rides to bring people to the meeting venue, there were approximately 100 or more people for the “meeting” with Erdogan event.
It was also found out later that Turkish Education Counselor sent an email to the students with government scholarship, calling them to join the meeting.
No questions taken…
During Obama administration, last time Erdogan visited White House for a bilateral meeting when he was the Prime Minister. That visit was made in May of 2013. Before these types of Turkish visits to Washington, meetings or US administration officials’ travel to Turkey, White House used to hold teleconferences to preview the visit, discuss the topics. No such meetings took place before this visit, nobody answered any questions from the US side.
The last meeting took place on 16th May of 2013 when Erdoğan initially had multiple meetings with former President Obama, then held a press conference in Rose Garden, followed by a dinner on his honor at Secretary of State. The day after, he was honored with another dinner event at “Red Room” of the White House, including another meeting with President Obama. It is very hard to avoid the dramatic change in Erdoğan’s visit and in his profile since then. Erdogan and Trump only met for 22 minutes as two leaders before making statements for 13 minutes including translations. No question taken.
22 minute bilateral meeting could be the shortest meeting any Turkish leader had with a sitting US president.
In essence, it was a smart decision not to let American reporters ask questions to Erdogan due to many toxic topics Erdogan brought Washington to discuss. Gulen extradition, Iran sanctions evader Reza Zarrab and Erdogan’s labelling YPG as “terrorist organizations” were going to be all controversial issues. But also Erdogan’s treatment of journalists, press freedom, dislike of independent judiciary and so on. So, Erdogan, instead of like a democratic leader responding questions transparently, became a leader who should not be asked any questions.
A closed door meeting at the Atlantic Council and SETA
Erdoğan’s Washington trips are known to take in general 3 or 4 days, however this trip was only for one day. After his meeting with President Trump, it was announced that he would be attending a “closed” session meeting co-organized by two AKP government supporter think tank agencies: one of them Washington’s Atlantic Council and the other one Turkey’s SETA.
Washington Hattı learned from many Turkish experts in town that majority of the renowned experts on Turkey were not invited to this meeting due to their criticism for Erdoğan in recent years.
So, the Atlantic Council convened a meeting with Turkish President to discuss Turkey issues without inviting Washington’s Turkey experts. What’s more, while Atlantic Council’s unnamed guests were meeting with President Erdogan inside of the Turkish Ambassador Residence, bodyguards were beating up the protestors outside.
The Atlantic Council prepped Trump for the meeting.
In addition, Washington Hattı found out from Washington sources that the Atlantic Council briefed President Trump at White House before his meeting with Erdoğan. In this briefing, they recommended Trump he should not just go with grievances but highlight the need to improve economic cooperation and use that angle.
The Atlantic Council had an energy summit in Istanbul 2 week ago. In the very same summit, some of the experts and journalists were taken out of the speaker list due to Erdoğan’s veto. The fact that another “closed” session meeting took place between Erdoğan and the Atlantic Council in Istanbul surfaced recently.
Atlantic Council gets a big chunk of its funding from the Turkish Government and it faces serious criticism regarding its dealings when it comes to Turkish government. Atlantic Council CEO Mr. Kempe recently gave an interview in which his remarks regarding Turkish referendum and purge raised eyebrows.
Atlantic Council’s funding not only from Turkish Government, and Turkish Government allied companies but also Erdogan’s allies such as Qatar, Azerbaijan and S.Arabia.
— LD DonkeyKong 24 (@slinkymaster) May 17, 2017
Brawl at Turkish Embassy Residence
Fight in front of Turkish Residence became the events that define Erdogan’s Washington visit. This events covered widely by leading US publications and news channels.
No mention of Human Rights by Trump
While President Trump has not mentioned any human rights issues nor press freedom issues, President Erdogan surprised by referencing ”common democratic values”: ”The relations between Turkey and the United States have been erected upon common democratic values and common interests.”
As it is well known that Turkish President has no respect for democratic institutions beside paying lip service.
President Trump also omitted using terms like ”strategic partnership” and avoid emphasizing Turkey’s geopolitic importance as it has been the case. Instead, Trump reached out all the way back to Korean War to embrace Turkish alliance.
At the end, President Erdogan got the photo-opt he wanted. It is hard to say now if any issues resolved. For now, it does not seem so.
President Erdogan had also other 2 clear topics in Washington: He wanted to get Fethullah Gulen back Turkey, whom he accuses to be the master mind of the coup. Erdogan also wants to get Reza Zarrab released from New York Federal jail.
At the end, White House issued readout about the meeting and did not mention about Gulen nor about Zarrab but the readout made it clear that US wants American pastor Andrew Brunson return home as soon as possible.