Despite a ‘wonderful’ meeting between Erdoğan and Trump, US and Turkey still at odds

The US president, who says he is a “great fan” of his Turkish counterpart, describes tête-à-tête as “productive”. Erdoğan calls for a “new page in our relationship". However, the two countries remain divided over anti-Kurdish offensive and S-400 weapon system.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) – US President Donald Trump described his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as “wonderful”; however, despite the nice words, the encounter has not reduced the gap between the United States and Turkey nor solved any outstanding dispute in their bilateral relations.

The much-anticipated tête-à-tête at the White House included covered the Turkish offensive against the Kurds (and Christians) in north-eastern Syria and Ankara’s decision to buy Russian S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system.

At the end of the summit, Trump said he was "a great fan" of his Turkish counterpart, called by some the ‘Sultan’, adding that their meeting was “productive”.

The US president also reiterated his opposition to the agreement between Turkey and Russia, seen as a serious threat to bilateral relations and NATO, of which Turkey is a member.

Ultimately, despite statements of mutual support, the two leaders failed to explain how they plan overcome the growing gap over a number of issues: S-400; Kurds, relations with Russia, Mideast alliances. 

The official press release by the White House a few minutes after the leaders’ press conference could not paper over the differences.

“In order to achieve progress on other fronts, it is vital that we resolve the issues involving Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system, strengthening our defense partnership,” said the US communiqué using a stronger language than the one used by the two presidents.

In Washington, concerns are growing over closer ties between Moscow and Ankara. The latter once was a bulwark against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Erdoğan and Trump said they were working to boost relations and overcome problems, but did not say how. “We have agreed to open a new page in our relationship,” said the Turkish leader.

If Trump praised the relationship with Erdoğan, the US Congress criticised Ankara for its offensive in Syria against a strategic partner (Kurdish forces) fighting the Islamic State group.

With this in mind, Erdoğan insisted that the two countries “can work together to finish Islamic State and bring peace to Syria. The most reliable US partner in the region to do this is Turkey,” he said.

To improve relations, the White House is offering a hundred billion in incentives and an alternative defence system to the S-400 system to stop sanctions by the US Congress.

According to the Washington Post, this is similar to a proposal Trump made before and later dropped after Turkey launched its operation in Syria against the Kurds and presented again in a letter to Erdoğan last week.