Vaggelis Sarakinos: “Pardon my French” – What Pompeo said in Paris that Ankara did not want to hear
Mike Pompeo has been in Istanbul since Monday afternoon, where he is meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, as part of his tour of Europe and the Middle East, which also has a farewell tone. The US Secretary of State will not meet with any Turkish officials during his stay in the country and his visit will focus only on issues of religious freedom. In other words, it’s what Ankara did not want and to what it reacted angrily to last week.
Pompeo announced his tour, which includes France, Turkey and the Gulf states, a day after Erdogan’s phone call to Biden to congratulate him on his election victory and his communication with Trump during which the Turkish president thanked him for their deep friendship.
Several Turkish officials saw Pompeo’s visit to Turkey as a unique opportunity for bilateral contacts. After all, they have been looking for something like this for a long time, while at the same time they were upset by the fact that the American Secretary of State, despite being in the area many times, always avoided Ankara. The Turkish leadership was particularly annoyed by Pompeo’s double visit to Greece, as well as his visit to Cyprus, from which he did not fail to castigate Turkish provocations.
The background with Cavusoglu
The State Department said, however, that the US Secretary of State’s tour was intended to send a strong message of religious freedom to the world. It is at this point that the Turkish leadership saw dangers, as Erdogan’s decision to turn the Hagia Sophia and the Hora Monastery into mosques would inevitably come under discussion.
Cavusoglu sought an official visit by Pompeo to Ankara, which could include a meeting with Erdogan. Pompeo’s associates, however, said that the head of American diplomacy did not intend to make bilateral contacts, but to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew and two other religious leaders. The Turkish side, as revealed a week ago by the Middle East Eye website, insisted on a meeting in Ankara and the Americans suggested a meeting in Istanbul. Something that Cavusoglu ruled out. Most likely, however, neither side wanted the meeting.
Pompeo never visited Turkey and preferred to meet his Turkish counterpart on the sidelines of his international obligations, while Cavusoglu did not want to engage in discussions on religious freedom issues with an outgoing minister, even if he is the US Secretary of State. Visits by US officials to Ankara have been rare in recent years, as they were probably replaced by the Trump-Erdogan hotline. The special visit of Vice President Pence last year was aimed at ending the conflict in Syria.
Pompeo said it “in French”
However, while Pompeo is in Istanbul, excerpts from his interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro are published from Paris, in which he also refers to the meeting he had with Macron. The US Secretary of State states that he discussed with the French president the “very aggressive” actions of Turkey, but also the need to “convince” Erdogan to change his attitude.
In his interview, Pompeo referred to Ankara’s involvement in Nagorno-Karabakh, mainly “the fact that it has transferred Syrian forces to the region”, but also to its involvement in Libya and the challenges in the eastern Mediterranean. “I could continue this list” of Turkish provocations, said the American minister, who said it rather “in French” to Cavusoglu, after the latter’s decision to … ignore him.
“Europe and the United States must work together to convince Erdogan that such actions are not in the best interests of his people,” he said. He also referred to the Nagorno-Karabakh agreement, which he described as humiliating for Armenia. Finally, he stressed that Moscow should provide some clarifications on the role of the Turks in the peace process.
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