As far as Heads of States visits go during the short Trump Administration, the Erdogan - Trump meeting has now overtaken the disastrous Merkel-Trump meeting, when it comes to calculating a failure rate.
Erdogan’s White House meeting with Trump was trumpeted as a “turning point” in Turkey’s relations with the United States. There are three major issues to assess the success of the visit and thereby come to a conclusion of whether it was a turning point:
- a change of Washington’s position on the YPG;
- the extradition of Turkey’s public enemy No. 1, Fethullah Gulen, to Turkey; and
- the release of Reza Zarrab, the pivotal character of Turkey’s corruption case of 2014, which is seen as the biggest potential headache for Erdogan.
The 22-minute “turning point” summit in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, was followed by a joint press conference that lasted about the same length, with Trump speaking less than five minutes and saying nothing significant and Erdogan reading a text that reiterated Turkey’s stand on the thorny issues.
During the joint press conference, both tried to be cordial to each other, but they were unable to conceal the mundane atmosphere dominating the Roosevelt Room, where the joint press conference was held. While Erdogan was talking, Trump’s body language gave the impression that he was somewhere other than next to his Turkish counterpart.
Mr. Erdogan, however, can claim one feather on his cap, given that Trump did not retract his earlier endorsement of the Turkish referendum, making Turkey manifestly less liberal; the speed with which it was offered; the way it differs from the stated views of key American allies, or the lack of any expression of concern about the process.
Nobody, unfortunately, from the American media was really interested in the divergences between Turkey and the United States, and they behaved as if the president of Turkey was not even in the room.
Interestingly sideline, during the press conference, the discrepancy in Erdogan’s Turkish and the English translation that Trump heard was noted and circulated on social media within an hour. That means what Trump heard in English was different in meaning or what Erdogan intended to mean.
The joint press conference was followed by a working lunch where the delegations took part. After the lunch, Erdogan’s visit — which was advertised by his team as “a turning point” in Turkish-American relations — ended - a total failure and unprecedented in this regard.
The worst part of the Erdogan visit probably came when Kurdish-American activists were holding a demonstration at the Turkish ambassador’s residence protesting Erdogan’s visit to Washington, and it turned into a battleground, where Erdogan’s bodyguards and his supporters violently attacked the demonstrators. Nine people were wounded, and American police had difficulty taking control of the situation.
Halil Mutlu, a cousin of Erdogan’s, and a board member of the Turkish American Steering Committee (TASC), was spotted on the sidelines of the fray. At one point he was seen leading a pro-Erdogan chant aimed at the Turkish government critics.
On this visit to the US Erdogan opted to use his own armored official Mercedes car brought from Turkey by a Turkish military cargo airplane. He also took along a large number of bodyguards, who as they have done on many other occasions around the world, took unauthorized provocative action on foreign soil, against peaceful local demonstrators.
Turkish autocratic President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan enjoys the trappings and lifestyle of an aspiring dictator. He lives in a lavish official residence about 30 x the size of the White House, called the White Palace he had built on the outskirts of Ankara, the capital, at the expense of his ever generous taxpayers and a dwindling Turkish economy.
Not even the ATAA, representing over 60 local chapters and 500,000 Turkish Americans throughout the United States used the occasion of the Erdogan visit to voice their protest against the present undemocratic developments in Turkey or at least tried to get their members motivated to take some action.
As one longtime US citizen of Turkish descent, attending a cultural meeting organized by the Florida Turkish American Association in Florida remarked, "we Turks like to talk a lot, but when it comes to taking political action, fear for reprisals seems to overtake reality.