Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Washington Wednesday, Nov. 22, and was welcomed by his US counterpart Donald Trump at an official ceremony at the White House. The trip ad been foreseen in advance and was of high importance to Erdogan and Turkey, because after the developments in northern Syria and Turkey’s military presence on part of Syrian territory, it was important to Ankara to be able to secure the necessary international support or tacit support from countries such as the United States, Russia as well as the European Union.
In this context, the European Union has voiced many criticisms of Turkey’s attacks on northern Syria, but the approaches of Russia and the US have been different from those of the European Union.
In this regard, Erdogan’s visit to Russia and his meeting with Vladimir Putin is considered a “quasi-support” by Moscow for Turkey’s situation in northern Syria. This is while Turkey expected this from the United States, and it would be of great importance to Erdogan if Trump too would extend the support. Of course, separate agreements had previously been signed between Turkey and Russia, and between Turkey and the US.
Apart from these issues, there are other points to be contemplated about Erdogan’s visit to Washington; first, in relation to Syria, besides garnering tacit US support for Turkey’s status in northern Syria, Erdogan sought to persuade Trump to give up US support for the Syrian Kurdish groups. But he did not succeed, because Trump had said he wanted to invite Mazloum Kobani, Syria’s Kurdish commander-in-chief for talks. Therefore, the US wants to somehow continue its relative support for the Kurdish groups in northern Syria, and this is not that pleasant to Turkey.
So at present the US support for Turkey’s military presence in Syria seems to remain within the limits envisaged in the agreements between the two sides, but in the long run these developments depend on the conditions Syria will face.
The second issue that was important to Erdogan during his visit to the United States was the removal of concerns about the Armenians’ issue. Almost two weeks ago, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing the killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as a genocide, which sparked Turkish outrage. So Erdogan somehow sought to persuade Trump that Americans should avoid such challenging issues. But even if such a demand is met under present conditions and the issue of Armenians is forgotten, the challenge might come back again and not disappear.
The third issue of importance to the Turkish president was to ensure that US would not sanction Turkey and that other sanctions would be lifted. During this meeting and in the course of discussions on economic and trade issues between the two sides, an implicit promise was made by Trump to Erdogan to somehow lift the sanctions. Meanwhile, the talks covered issues such as raising the volume of trade to $100 billion.
In the meantime, after discussions which were held on US withdrawal from Syria, Trump quickly reversed that decision and revised his policies, saying US troops did not intend to leave Syria and would be redeployed in areas where troops and equipment had been withdrawn.
There was also talk of US presence in Syrian oil fields in the north of the country. Nonetheless, the strategy the US is pursuing in Syria that has prevented it from leaving Syria is related to Washington’s policies on the future of Syria. Criticisms inside the US appear to have risen over Trump’s decision to leave Syria, and critics have said that the US withdrawal from Syria is tantamount to giving up the share the US is seeking in Syria. Many believe that this will give a free hand to other actors such as Iran and Russia to operate. For this reason, the United States seems to be seeking to play a role in influencing Syria’s future developments and its transition to new political conditions.