We've gotten used to strange scenes in the White House in Washington. But this encounter between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump then offered a whole new experience.
For a moment, it seemed that Trump was not the ruler of the world's most powerful country, but Erdogan. The Turkish President took the opportunity to lecture and criticize the United States before the assembled press.
It could not be true that his archenemy, the preacher Fethullah Gülen, could continue to live in the US "on 400 hectares of land," complained Erdogan, for example. Gülen is finally the "leader of a terrorist organization".
Even the recent resolution of the US House of Representatives, in which the Ottoman Empire is blamed for the genocide of the Armenians 100 years ago, is an impossibility. An attempt was made to undermine relations between the US and Turkey, the guest scolded from Ankara.
Trump stood by silently. When the US president's turn came, he sounded like a junior partner to the Turk. He flattered Erdogan and praised him as best he could. "I'm a big fan of the president," Trump enthused.
Without question, the Turkish President can be satisfied with this visit to Washington. The encounter did not produce concrete results. But after it looked as if the relationship between the US and Turkey was seriously shattered because of the invasion of the Turkish army in northern Syria, nothing was felt at all during this visit. Trump obviously wanted to restart the relationship with Erdogan.
"A valued friend"
The US President went out of his way to make his visit as pleasant as possible for his guest. While Erdogan criticized the United States, Trump starts a veritable charm offensive. An almost paradoxical situation: who had expected that it would be the other way around and the Americans would read the Turks to the Levites, was better informed. At least in the public part of the meeting: Turkey is a great NATO partner, emphasized Trump. And his relationship with Erdogan is really "outstanding." He is a "valued friend".
Apparently, the US president has decided to spread the mantle of oblivion over the entire Syrienstreit the past few weeks as possible. In his view, maybe that's the best: After all, Trump did not look too good. He had failed to stop Erdogan from invading Syria. Instead, he even withdrew the US troops in the region and left the Turkish military a free hand against the US Kurdish allies. Even many party friends of the President are still appalled by Trump's zig-zag course on the Syrian issue.
Trump does not challenge that: He obviously sees Erdogan as an important partner with whom he does not want to mess it up. The point now is to look to the future, Trump pointed out. This means that, for example, trade with Turkey should be expanded. A trade volume of nearly $ 100 billion and more is possible, he enthused. "That's great for Turkey and for us."
Charm offensive with senators
Also unusual for such a visit: Trump took the opportunity to bring together Erdogan critics from the US Senate with the Turks. Even before the visit, there was resentment in Congress over the fact that Trump Erdogan after all the Syrian dispute ever invited to such a visit. The US Congress continues to discuss sanctions against Turkey.
Now, Trump summarily summoned a group of Republican senators from his party to the White House, including Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and the influential chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, James Risch.
Erdogan should have been very much in favor of this friendship service. For him, it was a great opportunity to promote his positions. Many Republicans in the Senate are critical of Erdogan's policies towards the Kurds and are bothered by his autocratic leadership style. At the same time they are also outraged that Erdogan has bought the Russian missile defense system S-400, although actually the US system "Patriot" would have been available.
Trump announced after the meeting that Erdogan and he had instructed their ministers and advisers to find a solution in the dispute over the S-400 missile system. "We'll talk about it and hopefully we'll come to a conclusion," Trump said. The President did not say a word about possible sanctions against Turkey.
Erdogan stood by and smiled satisfied.