The story of that night between Turkey and the US - ABDÜLKADIR SELVI

The story of that night between Turkey and the US

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Barack Obama met twice in one month.

The two leaders spoke after the Sultanahmet attack on January 20 and after the suicide bombing in Ankara on February 19.

Obama and Erdoğan are going to meet at the Nuclear Security Summit, which will be held in Washington between March 30 and April 1. If Obama is available, the two leaders are going to attend the opening of the US-Islam Culture Center in Maryland together. Hence the two leaders will have met three times in four months.

These are not the meetings of historic moments of fate. But the Turkish president meeting with his US counterpart twice within one month during the critical process we are going through is important. What if channels of discussion between the two leaders were closed while all these developments were happening?

Obama, who spoke to Erdoğan after the Sultanahmet and Çınar attacks said, “Our cooperation against the PKK's terror and ISIL [Daesh] will continue.” There was a special message for Istanbul: “Istanbul is one of the world's most beautiful cities. An attack on Istanbul is considered an attack on us all.”

After the suicide bombing in Ankara where 28 people lost their lives, Obama and Erdoğan discuss three matters: the terror attacks aimed at Turkey, Syria and Iraq. A comprehensive meeting takes place. Once the meeting is over, both sides give the impression that one of the most productive dialogues of late took place. However, after the statements are made, certain efforts emerge aiming to cast a shadow over the successful meeting.

The change in the three basic topics stands out in the statements.

1-The People's Protection Units (YPG)
2- Turkey's right to self-defense

While at the start of the meeting Obama expressed his sorrow regarding the Ankara attack, he emphasized Turkey's sensitivities. Erdoğan said, “The attack was made by the YPG.”

Hürriyet newspaper Ankara representative Deniz Zeyrek gave a successful report on the Erdoğan-Obama meeting. I am going to make use of his summary in a section.

Erdoğan explains that the attacks by the Assad regime and YPG in the north of Syria, aimed at opposition groups, are harming the fight against Daesh. He asks Obama to make a call for these attacks to stop and have this announced with a joint statement. During the meeting, Erdoğan prefers to say “Daesh” and Obama “ISIL.” Obama states his discomfort about Assad and the YPG's advancing from the northwest of Syria toward the east and responds positively to the joint statement.

Stating that Turkey has been subjected to attacks by Daesh, the PKK and YPG, Erdoğan brings up Turkey's right to self-defense within the scope of terror. Obama underlines Turkey's right to self-defense. The president of a country that has invaded Afghanistan and Iraq within the scope of preventive counterterrorism after the September 11 attacks is someone who would know what the right to self-defense means.

Obama brings up the shelling aimed at YPG and Daesh targets on the agenda. Of course, as you might guess, through the YPG.

Erdoğan replies, “If Assad, Russia and the YPG abide by the agreement made in Munich, the shelling will stop.”

Both leaders hang up the telephone with the comfort of a positive meeting.

This meeting is then followed by both countries' offices stepping in. The Presidential Complex and the White House.

I want you to take careful note here, because you are going to find the story of that night. After the one-hour-and-20-minute discussion between the two leaders, the two offices jointly work until 10:00 pm on the “statement text.” The final confirmations are made at 10:00 pm and the mutual agreement over the statement text is notified. After the White House OKs the statement, they are given the “We are sending this text to the newsroom” message. The president says, “We are publishing this text as we jointly agreed.” It is confirmed one last time. Then a statement on the meeting is made by the presidency. An hour passes and there is no problem. Two hours, and still no problem. Since the text was prepared jointly and confirmations were made, no problem is expected. And February 19 passes this way. Due to the time difference, it is time for Turkey to sleep. At 2:00 am our time on February 20, the White House sends a statement to the newsroom with some changes.

The differences in three points in the statement made by Turkey at 10:00 pm and the US at 2:00 am are striking.

1-The US states that Obama is concerned solely about the advance of the Syrian regime. The YPG is not mentioned in the US's text. They are acting as if the attacks by Assad and YPG forces from northwest Syria aimed at opposition groups are giving to the fight against Daesh were not discussed, the YPG was never mentioned and no agreement was reached to include this in the joint statement four hours ago.

2-There is no reference to Turkey's right to self-defense in the US's statement.

3-There is a call for an end to the shelling.

The records of the meeting between Obama and Erdoğan are in the archives of both countries. Also the preparation of the joint statement text, the confirmations are in the e-mails of the corresponding authorities, on the computers of both offices.

While Turkey made the joint statement at 10:00 pm after the mutual confirmations, how state-appropriate is it for the US to take out parts of the statement without notifying Turkey and make the announcement at 2:00 am, four hours after Turkey? This behavior is extremely wrong and was not a classy move in terms of interstate relations.

If the US did not want the YPG mentioned in the statement, it should have gone over the records of the talk between the two leaders, and if necessary request time. After both sides make their demands, a statement is made.

Something interesting happened that night. The US initially approves the publication of the joint statement text prepared together, the text which they saw, every sentence, every letter and punctuation mark even. Then later, parts are taken out without Turkey's knowledge, and a separate statement is made. And later a warning message is sent to certain journalists regarding the differences between the two statements.

The world power's action was very unseemly.


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