Trump says he’s a “big fan” of Turkey strongman Erdogan

Turkey’s recent offensive against a key U.S. ally in Syria did not stop President Trump from honoring Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a White House visit and joint press conference. Throughout the afternoon on Wednesday, the president had approving words for the authoritarian leader, whose military invaded northern Syria and forced out America’s Kurdish allies. 

In an Oval Office meeting before their news conference, Mr. Trump thanked Erdogan, and emphasized that the U.S. wants to shift its focus to its own borders, not others’ borders. 

“I want to thank the president for the job they’ve done, again, this has been thousands of years in the process between borders, between these countries and other countries that we’re involved with 7,000 miles away,” Mr. Trump said of Erdogan. “So, we want to worry about our things.”

Mr. Trump added he and Erdogan have been “very good friends,” almost from “day one.” He mentioned that many of Turkey’s people are being killed “in the area that we’re talking about” and it’s “not a one-way street.” 

In the afternoon, the president held a meeting with Erodgan, Senators Lindsey Graham, Tim Scott, Ted Cruz, Joni Ernst and Jim Risch. 

“I’ve never had an opportunity like this before. I appreciate it. The purpose of this meeting is to have an American civics lesson for our friends in Turkey. And there’s a pony in there somewhere if we can find it,” Graham said during that meeting. 

Mr. Trump noted Wednesday that he and Erdogan would discuss the Russian S-400 missile defense system Turkey has purchased, along with the F-35 fighter jet program. The U.S. kicked the Turks out of the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program during the summer over their decision to buy the S-400, which could be a threat to F-35 planes and which is also not compatible with NATO systems. Turkey could also face U.S. sanctions over its purchase of the Russian weapons system.

Asked by a reporter whether there was any way that Turkey could use the S-400 system and participate in the F-35 program at the same time, the president responded that he and Erdogan were talking about it. Nothing was announced Wednesday afternoon. 

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US-Turkey relations ‘like marriage’ – State Department spokeswoman Nauert

Relations between Turkey and the US are “like marriage,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told journalists, adding that sometimes these relationships have “a good day” and sometimes “a bad day.”

During a State Department press briefing on Tuesday, Nauert was asked about Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab. Zarrab was arrested in the US back in 2016 and was later charged with money laundering and evading US sanctions on Iran. His trial will start in late November. The Turkish government says that the case against the businessman is a “clear plot against Turkey.”

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