US defense chief meets Turkish dictator, military counterpart

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli in Ankara, Turkey’s capital city, Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis shakes hands with Turkey's Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli while in Ankara, Turkey, Aug. 23, 2017. Mattis also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an later in the day. DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis shakes hands with Turkey’s Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli while in Ankara, Turkey, Aug. 23, 2017. Mattis also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an later in the day. DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

This was the first meeting between Mattis and Canikli, said White, who added that the two military leaders discussed the need for ongoing open and honest dialogue, the territorial integrity of Syria and Iraq and concern over Iran’s malign influence in the region, she said.

The military men both serve at the command of controversial politicians, so they have a lot of common concerns.

The meeting comes as leaders of the free world complain that Turkey arrested 50,000 people in a crackdown following last year’s bloody coup attempt against Erdogan, saying the dragnet is a pretext for the Turkish dictator to get rid of his opponents.

Germany and the rest of Europe should back the “democratically minded” majority of Turks who do not support Erdo?an, said Germany’s foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel, whose Social Democratic Party (SPD) wants a harder position towards its NATO ally. 

“More than half the country is democratically minded. They didn’t support him,” Gabriel said. “I believe that many in Turkey are counting on Europe and Germany supporting Turkish democracy and not looking on helplessly.”

Erdo?an recently criticized the United States for its support of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), arguing that weapons the U.S. provided to Kurds in Syria “have ended up in Turkey.”

“The weapons that have been distributed to the organizations in the name of the fight against Daesh [the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] in Syria and Iraq have been withheld in the attacks that the PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party] have operated in Turkey,” Erdo?an said on Aug. 20. “We know which country’s weapons are in the hands of the PKK, the YPG [Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units], the PYD [Democratic Union Party] or Daesh.”

White said Mattis and Canikli further reaffirmed their shared resolve to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Later in the day, Mattis met with the Turkish president, and the two leaders discussed regional security and strategy, White said.

White said Mattis expressed to Erdo?an the United States’ commitment to its bilateral relationship with Turkey.

Mattis also addressed Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, White said.

Mattis and Erdo?an expressed a shared interest for the two countries to create conditions for a more stable and secure region, she said.

Nationwide protests against Erdo?an’s authoritarianism began in May 2013, with an internationally criticised police crackdown resulting in 22 deaths and the stalling of European Union (EU) membership negotiations.

Erdo?an promulgated sweeping judicial reforms which were criticized for threatening judicial independence.

A $100 billion corruption scandal in 2013 incriminated Erdo?an and led to the arrests of several of his close allies and Turnkey has since come under fire for alleged human rights violations and crackdown on press and social media, having blocked access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube on numerous occasions.

Nine people were injured and two arrested during a demonstration Tuesday outside the Turkish Ambassador’s District of Columbia residence just hours after President Trump met with Erdo?an in May.


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