Trump, Turkey's Erdogan agree to strengthen ties amid tensions

#Diplomacy

Erdogan: 'Being a just nation requires the legal system to work fairly'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and US President Donald Trump met previously in May (Reuters)
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Monday 11 September 2017 8:27 UTC
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US President Donald Trump and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on Saturday and agreed to continue to work toward stronger ties and regional security, Erdogan's office said, a day after the Turkish president lashed out at US authorities for indicting one of his ex-ministers.

Ties between the United States and its NATO ally have been strained by Washington's support for the YPG Kurdish fighters in the battle against the Islamic State group in Syria. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group.

Ankara has also been frustrated by what it sees as Washington's reluctance to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkey blames Gulen, who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999, for an attempted coup last year.

"Noting the strategic partnership between Turkey and the United States, the two leaders emphasised the importance of continuing to work together to further strengthen bilateral relations and increase stability in the region," the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

The two leaders agreed to meet in New York at the UN General Assembly, scheduled for this month.

The call was notable for its timing, coming a day after Erdogan described a US prosecutor's indictment against a former Turkish economy minister as being politically motivated and tantamount to an attack on Ankara.

The former minister, Zafer Caglayan, and the ex-head of a state-owned Turkish bank were charged this week with conspiring to violate Iran sanctions by illegally moving hundreds of millions of dollars through the US financial system on Tehran's behalf.

The indictment marked the first time an ex-government member with close ties to Erdogan had been charged in the on-going US investigation, which has strained ties between the two countries.

"For the moment, it is impossible to evaluate this within legal logic," Erdogan told reporters on Friday. "I see this step against our former economy minister as a step against the Turkish republic.

He had also called on Washington to reconsider the charges.

"I hope we'll get a chance to discuss this issue in the United States. You may be a big nation, but being a just nation is something else. Being a just nation requires the legal system to work fairly."

Protesters roughed up

The Turkish leader's previous visit to Washington in May stoked controversy when Erdogan's bodyguards were seen roughing up protesters outside of the Turkish ambassador's residence, The Hill website said. Various US lawmakers in turn proposed withholding military equipment and visas from Turkey. 

A grand jury in late August indicted 19 defendants, including 15 Turkish security officials, over charges stemming from the violent attack on protesters.

House Foreign Affairs chairman Ed Royce (R-California) and ranking member Eliot Engel (D-New York) urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a letter on Friday to warn the Turkish leader against allowing any violence when he arrives in New York City next week for the UN General Assembly meeting, The Hill said.