US-Turkey relations: Trump congratulates Erdogan on successful Turkey referendum

By Abdul Ruff

USA and Turkey have been cooperating on different levels internationally, since the beginning of Cold war when USA and its NATO allies fought Russia, coordinating their efforts against Soviet domination on world scene and for world peace. The mutual bonds were so strong that even efforts of Israel, their common military ally for years, to divide USA and Turkey could not make any headway.

USA is among the first nations to congratulate President Erdogan on his success in the national referendum to make Presidential form of governance stronger. .

US President Donald Trump has congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his victory in Sunday’s referendum that gave him sweeping new powers. In the poll, 51.4% of Turkish voters backed the changes. In a phone call, the US president also thanked his Turkish counterpart Erdogan for supporting America’s missile strike on a Syrian government airbase on 7 April.

In a statement, the White House said President Trump discussed with his Turkish counterpart America’s “action in response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons on 4 April”. It said the two leaders “agreed on the importance of holding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable”. They also discussed “the counter-ISIS state campaign, the statement added.

The unique victory was ruled valid by Turkey’s electoral body, despite claims of irregularities by the opposition. Erdogan rejected criticism from international monitors who said he had been favored by an “unequal campaign”. “Know your place,” he told the observers.

Constitutional changes 

The president will have a five-year tenure, for a maximum of two terms. The president will be able to directly appoint top public officials, including ministers and one or several vice-presidents. The job of prime minister will be scrapped. The president will have power to intervene in the judiciary, which President Erdogan has accused of being influenced by Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based preacher he blames for the failed coup in July. The president will on his own decide whether or not impose a state of emergency.

In a separate development, Turkey extended the state of emergency for three months. The measure, introduced after a failed coup last July, was set to expire in two days.


Relations between Washington and Ankara have recently been strained by several key issues. One of Turkey’s main grievances with the US is the policy started by the Obama administration of supporting Kurdish fighters in Syria who are fighting IS forces. Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a terror group linked to Kurdish separatists waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.

The two sides are also at loggerheads over Fethullah Gulen. Turkey accuses the cleric of orchestrating the failed coup. Officially the Washington insists any decision on returning him to Turkey from the US remains a judicial rather than a political one.

Politically motivated anti-Turkey reports

Generally, West joins the opposition in Turkey in slamming the AKP government and its programs. So, their attacks on the referendum is not  big surprise. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has demanded a recount of 60% of the votes. Its deputy head said the result should be annulled altogether. The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) also challenged the vote.

Despite saying that the voting day was “well administered”, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe criticised the referendum campaign, saying it was an “unlevel playing field” and the two sides of the campaign “did not have equal opportunities and it was unbalanced due to the active involvement of the president and several senior officials. The main objections are: Under the state of emergency, essential fundamental freedoms were curtailed.  Despite some measures, the legal framework remained inadequate for a genuinely democratic referendum.  The referendum for the OSCE did not live up to Council of Europe standards,” said Cezar Florin Preda, head of the Council of Europe delegation, clearly making clear their shabby objection to Turkey joining the EU. The council is a pan-European human rights body of which Turkey is a member. The monitors also said this move “removed an important safeguard and were contested by the opposition. But the head of Turkey’s electoral body, Sadi Guven, said the unstamped ballot papers had been produced by the High Electoral Board and were valid. He said a similar procedure had been used in past elections.

Addressing supporters in the presidential palace in Ankara, Erdogan said that Turkey did not “see, hear or acknowledge the politically motivated reports” of the monitors. The result, he said, ended the debate on changing the constitution and creating an executive presidency, adding that the process of implementing the reforms would now begin. He also said the country could hold a referendum on its long-stalled EU membership bid. Additionally, Erdogan said he would approve the death penalty if it was supported in a referendum or a bill was submitted to him through parliament. This would end Turkey’s EU negotiations.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said the remarks by the monitors lacked impartiality. “Saying the referendum fell below international standards is unacceptable,” it said in a statement.

For many European leaders and EU – essentially a Christian Union and ill-focused on Turkey – Erdogan’s Islamist Turkey is an embarrassment. But the truth is every nation in Europe is free to choose its form of government and accept  the religion and culture  of its people.

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Abdul Ruff

Dr. Abdul Ruff is an independent analyst; columnist contributing articles to many newspapers and journals on world politics; expert on Mideast affairs, chronicler of foreign occupations & freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.); Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA); commentator on world affairs & sport fixings, former university teacher and author of eBooks/books

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