|We are approaching the highly anticipated meeting between President Trump and Turkish President Erdogan, here in Washington, and the topics to be discussed include everything from Syria, to weapons deal with Russia, to Ankara’s plans for releasing ISIS fighters.|
Despite previous reports that it would be canceled, the planned meeting between leaders from Turkey and the US is still expected to take place on Wednesday.
It comes as Turkey claims it will follow through with its plan to send more than 1,000 ISIS fighters back to their home countries in the West, even if their citizenship has been revoked, despite objections from the US and Europe.
In a statement, Turkey’s interior minister said his country is not “a hotel” and confirmed deportations were starting on Monday.
Before making the trip to Washington, Turkish President Erdogan discussed the ISIS prisoners, but he used their release as a threat, in response to Europe’s decision to place sanctions on Turkey for illegally drilling for gas in Mediterranean waters off the coast of Cyprus.
“You should know well your stance against a Turkey which is currently hosting four million refugees. You should revise your stance toward Turkey, which holds so many IS members in prison and controls them in Syria. Look, I’ve said it before. You can’t be taking it lightly—these gates will open and these ISIS members who have started to be sent to you will continue to be sent. Then you can take care of your own problem,” Erdogan said.
Although the US has been vocal about its concerns regarding what Turkey will do with the captured ISIS fighters, Washington is also responsible for giving Ankara control of thousands of ISIS prisoners in northern Syria. And during his speech, Erdogan said he plans to speak with Trump about his allegations that neither the US nor Russia have done enough to defeat terrorist organizations in northern Syria.
“Neither Russia nor the United States have been able to clean (northern Syria) of terrorist organizations within the time or dates they had promised. We will discuss this now with Mr. Trump. And just as we’ll discuss with Mr. Trump, we will find the opportunity to evaluate these developments in a phone call again with Mr. Putin upon my return,” Erdogan said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said the leaders plan to talk about the current conditions in Syria, where the US has condemned Turkey for launching a military offensive against the Kurds, which have been a close US ally in the region.
“We will talk about what transpired there and how we can do our level best collectively to ensure the protection of all of those in Syria–not just the Kurds but everyone in Syria, create a political resolution, and deliver on behalf of America’s interest in the region,” Pompeo said.
The list of topics will also likely include Turkey’s decision to purchase Russia’s S-400 air defense system earlier this year. In response, the US removed Turkey from its F-35 program, which will cost Washington an estimated $500 million dollars to move production out of Turkey.
Now it remains to be seen if this in-person meeting will bring Trump and Erdogan together after months of public disagreements, or if it will deepen the divide between the two NATO allies.