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The Washington Times: Turkish President Erdogan puts U.S. trip 'on hold' to protest House Armenian genocide vote

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Washington, November 5, 2019 | comments

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has put a highly anticipated visit to Washington next week “on hold” after the House of Representatives voted to formally recognize Ankara’s role in the Armenian genocide and pursue sanctions on Turkey, Turkish officials said Monday.

President Trump last month announced that the authoritarian Turkish leader accepted an invitation to meet just after Mr. Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw its forces from a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria, a move quickly followed by a Turkish-led military assault against Syrian Kurdish forces across the border.

Mr. Erdogan has since said he has put a “question mark” on the plans to meet in the U.S. after lawmakers last week overwhelmingly voted to recognize the mass killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1918, Reuters reported. The Armenian genocide has long been a diplomatic red line for Turkey, which denied charges the Ottomans engaged in a systematic campaign against ethnic Armenians in the midst of World War I.

A senior Turkish official said the vote “seriously overshadow ties between the two countries. Due to these decisions, Erdogan’s visit has been put on hold,” the Reuters news agency reported.

Although no final decision has been made, the potential summit was set to address a slew of divisive topics between the two NATO allies, including the recent military offensive against the U.S.-allied Kurds and Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system that the Pentagon fears is capable of compromising high-level NATO military systems.

The meeting’s announcement was met with a strong, bipartisan rebuke on Capitol Hill, with many members calling the White House invitation poorly timed in light of Turkey’s military advance into northeast Syria.

“President Erdogan needs to hear an unequivocal message of opposition to his incursion,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat. She called on the White House to revoke the invitation “until Turkey pulls back from its current course.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Illinois Republican, said Mr. Erdogan should “absolutely not” come to the White House, while Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican, said the Turkish leader “should not visit the White House until his forces stand down.”

U.S. policy in the region remains murky, as the original full withdrawal Mr. Trump outlined has been repeatedly modified in the face of criticism and recent events on the ground in Syria.

Mr. Trump now says that a small number of U.S. troops will remain near the Turkish-Syrian border to protect Syrian oil fields from a resurgent Islamic State, though he characterized the cease-fire deal with Turkey brokered by Vice President Mike Pence last month as a “major breakthrough” that honored his pledge to end American involvement in lengthy foreign wars.

Despite the cease-fire deal that lifted some U.S. sanctions on Ankara, and an agreement between Turkey and Russia to jointly patrol areas along the Turkish-Syria border, clashes continued between Syrian Kurdish forces and Turkish military over the weekend as Turkish forces continued to expand a buffer zone in border land once controlled by the Kurds.

Turkey has blamed the Kurds for the release of ISIS members and families from detention camps as fears mount that thousands of detained ISIS fighters in Syria are planning an escape amid the violence and disorder.

Turkey’s interior minister said Monday that the country will send the released ISIS members back to their home countries if accommodations are not made to hold them permanently.

Approximately 1,200 foreign ISIS fighters were in Turkish prisons, according to Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, and 287 members, including women and children, were recaptured during Turkey’s latest offensive in Syria.

The original article can be found on The Washington Times website here.
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