Presidents Barack Obama and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met face-to-face today for the first time since the failed July coup in Turkey, providing for a somewhat awkward side-story to the G20 summit in China. Obama sought to reassure Erdogan of his support, and committed to help bring those involved in the coup to justice.
This has been an enormously touchy subject between the US and Turkey, with Erdogan seeking the extradition of a high-profile cleric from the United States, who he has accused of masterminding the coup. Expressing outrage at US reticence, Erdogan and other Turkish officials have suggested that the US was involved in the coup.
Obama today described the coup attempt as “terrible,” and praised public opposition to it as proof of Turkey’s commitment to democracy. US reactions during the 12-hour coup effort, however, were more tepid, and that they only really condemned the effort once it was clear it was failing continues to loom large in US-Turkey relations.
The extradition of Fethullah Gulen is likely to continue to be a sore spot between the two, as the US has noted that the request for extradition included no evidence of his involvement in the coup, but rather mentioned only allegations of his involvement in previous crimes.