U.S. President Donald J. Trump called his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan a close friend on Thursday in a public display of personal rapport between the two leaders.
“I think now we’re as close as we’ve ever been,” the U.S. president said of Mr. Erdogan during a bilateral meeting in New York City on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
“He’s running a very difficult part of the world. He’s involved very, very strongly and, frankly, he’s getting very high marks. And he’s also been working with the United States,” Mr. Trump noted.
The White House said in a statement on Thursday that during the meeting, the leaders reaffirmed the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Turkey and agreed to continue cooperating to ensure regional stability and defeat terrorism.
In addition, they reaffirmed their rejection of the planned Kurdistan Regional Government’s independence referendum on September 25.
“They called on Kurdish leaders to accept the process of intense negotiations on all outstanding issues which the United States and Turkey are prepared to endorse and support,” the statement noted.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan and Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar were among the top officials who accompanied the Turkish president during the talks.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Ambassador to U.N. Nikki Haley and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster joined Mr. Trump.
In May, President Erdogan’s security detail and Turkish Embassy personnel embroiled in a violent scuffle with a group of protesters outside the diplomatic mission. The incident that unfolded right in front of Mr. Erdogan’s eyes, spurred bipartisan condemnation in the U.S.
The brutal beating of protesters inflicted a severe blow to the Turkish leader’s standing in Washington.
The incident also sparked a congressional debate about the need to put arms sales to Mr. Erdogan’s guards on hold. Later, U.S. prosecutors prepared an indictment against more than a dozen of the Turkish president’s security team members, fueling tensions between the two NATO allies.
Four months later, the story with beatings repeated itself. Mr. Erdogan’s bodyguards brutally beat at least one protester in New York City on Thursday. The incident took place just hours before the president’s meeting with Mr. Trump.
None of the incidents swayed the U.S. president’s embracing attitude toward his Turkish counterpart. Instead, Mr. Trump lavishly praised his guest. In his turn, Mr. Erdogan praised the American president and the level of the bilateral relationship, despite existing problems over a number of issues.