Donald Trump praised Turkey’s “leadership” and partnership with the United States, calling for a “new era” in relations as he welcomed that country’s President h Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House.
“We’ve had a great relationship and we will make it even better,” Trump said, never mentioning Turkey’s alarming record of jailing tens of thousands of people in recent months who were accused of opposing Erdogan’s iron fist rule.
The U.S. President ignored a request from a bipartisan group of Senators who asked him to address Turkey’s abysmal human rights record.
“The United States must be candid and consistent in our support of democratic values and respect for human rights for the sake of Turkey’s future and our long-term interests in the region,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., wrote in a letter signed by 15 colleagues. “We therefore urge you to make support for Turkish democracy and human rights a priority, both in your meetings with President Erdogan and in U.S. policy toward Turkey thereafter.”
The lawmakers were especially harsh on Erdogan.
“Erdogan and his allies have mounted an assault on the rule of law, particularly using sweeping state of emergency authorities to stifle fundamental rights including free speech, undermine the independence of the judiciary, and quash any opposition to their undemocratic actions,” Rubio and Menendez wrote. “They have thrown thousands of Turks in jail, including dozens of journalists, and left many of their citizens and even Americans in Turkey, fearful for their own futures.”
At the meeting and press conference that followed, the two men offered effusive praise for each other.
Erdogan congratulated Trump for his “legendary triumph” in the November presidential election and called him his “dear friend,” and welcomed a “historical turn of the tide” after their meeting.
“President Trump’s recent election victory has led to the awakening of a new set of aspirations and expectations and hopes in our region,” he said. “I hope and pray that both of us will be committed to extending further our cooperation in the future, along with consulting each other more frequently.”