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EXCLUSIVE: US President Donald Trump to visit Turkey

Turkish official tells Middle East Eye that visit will take place in July but final dates are still to be agreed
Erdogan (L) and Trump met at the G20 Summit in Argentina last December (AFP)
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US President Donald Trump will visit Turkey later this year, a Turkish official has confirmed to Middle East Eye.

Details of the visit were agreed in a call on Tuesday between Ibrahim Kalin, a senior aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and US National Security Advisor John Bolton.

The official told MEE that the visit would take place in July, although final dates are still to be agreed. Another senior Turkish official, who also asked to remain anonymous due to government protocol, said both sides were still discussing a date for the visit, including in July.

Both countries are members of the NATO military alliance but relations between Ankara and Washington have been strained on a number of issues, including Turkey's proposed purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia and US support for Kurdish forces during the battle against the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria.

Trump and Erdogan spoke to each other in a telephone call on Monday to discuss the S-400 deal, which the US has warned could allow Moscow to obtain critical data about its next-generation F-35 fighter jet programme in which Turkey is also a partner.

Turkey has already taken delivery of two of the jets, although they remain in the US where Turkish pilots are receiving training in Arizona. Turkish defence companies are also building some components for the jets.

But the Pentagon has threatened to block the delivery of the jets to Turkey because it says the F-35 and the S-400 system cannot share the same airspace because the Russian-made system could transfer data revealing the technical vulnerabilities of the jets back to Moscow. 

Turkey is due to take delivery of the S-400 missiles in July; the same month that Trump is now expected to visit the country. But US officials have publicly called several times for the government to impose sanctions on Turkey over the deal.

Officials in Ankara have been pushing for a state visit by Trump since last year to mend ties. Some Erdogan advisors believe his close relationship with Trump will be sufficient to resolve the S-400 crisis and prevent the imposition of sanctions.

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Turkey recently tabled some options to overcome the crisis, which included not activating the S-400s, or transferring them to a second country such as Azerbaijan or Qatar for safekeeping.

Trump is reported to have a fondness for Turkey, where there is a commercial site named after him, “Trump Towers”, in Istanbul. The reality TV star turned US president previously received royalties for the use of his trademark for this location. He has visited Turkey at least once before.

Last month, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner told an audience in Washington that the president, his father-in-law, had friends in Turkey. These include Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, head of  the Turkish-American Business Council (TAIK).

John Bolton and senior American soldiers visited Turkey in January to discuss Trump's proposed withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, although officials told MEE that Bolton's delegation had not presented any specific details about US plans.

James Jeffrey, the United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement, met Kalin on Wednesday to discuss a US-proposed safe zone in northern Syria.

A statement by the Turkish Presidency said both officials had agreed to implement the so-called "Manbij roadmap", agreed last June, and complete negotiations on a proposed safe zone to satisfy Turkey's security concerns.

The roadmap commits the US to withdrawing allied Kurdish forces from the Syrian city of Manbij, close to the Turkish border.

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