Turkish officials call Pompeo a liar and say he had a 'meltdown' outside Erdogan's door
Senior Turkish officials on Thursday called former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a liar, branding the allegations in his new book misinformation, which they said he was using in an attempt to propel him to the presidency.
Pompeo wrote that in 2019 he tried to “break through” a locked door in Ankara's presidential complex to reach then-vice president Mike Pence, who was having a longer than expected tete-a-tete with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In his memoir Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love, released on Tuesday, Pompeo says the Trump administration in October 2019 convinced Erdogan to sign a ceasefire deal in northern Syria following a Turkish military operation to seize areas formerly controlled by the US military.
According to Pompeo, Pence spent 50 minutes with Erdogan alone at the presidency, prompting the secretary of state to try and break the locked door of the room they were meeting in. Pompeo’s effort to break down the door scared his security team, who thought Turkish guards would react aggressively, he wrote. However, Pompeo said Turkish security quickly let him through and US officials joined Erdogan’s meeting with Pence.
Ibrahim Kalin, the Turkish president’s chief advisor and spokesperson, responded to Pompeo on Thursday, saying that Pence wasn’t alone with Erdogan as he was accompanied by then-special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey, as well as Kalin himself.
Stay informed with MEE's newsletters
Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked
'I will say there is misinformation in those statements. I’m being diplomatic but you can call it a lie'
- Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkish foreign minister
“As the conversation went on, Pompeo had a total meltdown outside, we learned later,” he told Hurriyet newspaper. “He physically made a move towards the door to enter and join the meeting, even though his vice president didn't want him to.”
Kalin said Pence never asked Turkish officials to invite Pompeo to the room.
Pompeo also wrote in his book that the Turkish military wasn’t qualified enough to beat the so-called Islamic State group (IS) in 2017 and that’s why they worked with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is led by Kurdish groups viewed as terrorists by Ankara.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised briefing on Thursday that the Turkish military at the time had capacity to defeat IS as it had already seized a big chunk of territory from both the militant group and Kurdish groups.
“I will say there is misinformation in those statements. I’m being diplomatic but you can call it a lie,” he said. "He must have written this book for his upcoming presidential campaign, that's why there is false information there."
Pompeo said Washington had two options: working with the US's Kurdish allies, the SDF, or working with the Turkish military. Ankara views the SDF as part of the PKK, an armed group designated as a terrorist organisation by the US, EU, and Turkey.
Pompeo said he personally delivered the news that Washington would work with the SDF to clear the remaining territory IS held in Syria, including its self-declared capital Raqqa.
“I’ve never seen such anger erupt so quickly in a room. Kalin and Fidan exploded and then left quickly. It wasn’t great for the relationship,” he wrote.
Kalin said on Thursday that he and Fidan weren’t angry but very clear in their position.
“Because the fight against a terrorist organisation cannot be done by supporting another terrorist organisation,” he said. “What he called anger was our clear demeanour.”
Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.