Notes from Erdogan-Obama meeting revealed

Article Summary
There is a wide gap between the notes used to prepare the official statement about the recent meeting of the US and Turkish presidents and the statement itself.

Courtesy of my high-level friends in the White House, I have obtained the authentic notes used to write the one-paragraph official statement issued after the Obama-Erdogan meeting. It is a common practice to keep minutes for such occasions, written informally without worrying about rules, for internal use of the institution. Only when it is time for an official statement are those minutes "translated" to diplomatic language, encoded in a way. Now I will first tell you about the informally written authentic minutes and notes and at the end will quote the official statement that was issued.

Unofficial minutes and notes for internal use on this occasion deal with two basic issues: Joint struggle against the Islamic State [IS] preventing the entry of militants to the war zone and the importance of creating a tolerant, [all-]embracing and inclusive society.

“The President [Barack Obama] demanded Turkey truly join in the struggle against the Islamic State in an effective manner. But [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan resisted, saying the Islamic State can carry out sabotage in Turkey and that there are 40 Turkish citizens held hostage in their [IS] hands.

“We know that Barzani offered to evacuate these people but was turned down by the Turkish side. It is still not clear who was behind the Reyhanli bombings of May 2013. It is understood that the Erdogan regime is using these two issues as pretexts to avoid taking action.

“Even before there was the issue of hostages, Islamic militants, mainly [the] Islamic State, for years freely shuttled back and forth over the Iraq-Syria and Turkey borders. This is not because the border supervision is difficult but because of the persistence of the Erdogan administration to topple Assad, who had been hurting the Muslim Brotherhood, which has empowered Turkey in the Middle East. To that end, Islamic fighters, including the Islamic State, were allowed to use Turkey as a logistics base for years.

“As part of this policy, Erdogan armed Islamic militants in a move coordinated by the MIT [Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization]. Weapons and explosives found on captured Islamic militants were marked MKE, Turkey’s state-owned industrial corporation. Turkish security forces several times stopped MIT trucks carrying weapons to Syria but the prosecutors, police and gendarmerie that stopped the trucks were reassigned and even put on trial on charges of spying. Although the government said these trucks were carrying humanitarian assistance, the trials are still held secretly.

“In addition to weapons assistance, Islamic casualties are immediately sent to Turkey where they get official care. After rest and recuperation these fighters return to the battlefield.

“The President [Obama] told Erdogan that it is crucial for this support to cease immediately and definitively."

Importance of creating a tolerant, embracing and inclusive society.

“Following the interpretation of the Istanbul Gezi Park ecological protests of June 2013 as ‘a plot to topple the government’ and the reports on Dec. 17 and 25 of high-level bribery and corruption they are still trying to cover up, authoritarian pressures in Turkey have reached high levels.

“Now, many people, including the fans of a major soccer team, are charged with 'attempting to overthrow the government,' punishable by aggravated life sentences.

“This authoritarian pressure is justified by the wish of some bureaucrats labeled as disciples of Fethullah Gulen to form a parallel state. In the meeting with the President, Erdogan asked for extradition of F. Gulen, who has been living in Pennsylvania, but since the US not been supplied with any evidence or a file, the President said the matter will have to dealt with through routine bureaucratic procedures.

“At the moment Erdogan is marginalizing anyone and any institution, led by the media and the judiciary, who doesn’t blindly support him; he is even trying to close banks and to accumulate voters’ support for his actions with his constant references to Sunni Islam.

“We don’t interfere with the domestic regimes of countries, as can be seen with Saudi Arabia. This constant emphasis on Sunni Islam and imposing a Sunni Islamic regime also means Turkey’s foreign policy cannot oppose the violent policies of the Sunni Islamic IS. Turkey thus remains as a facilitator of a Sunni Islamic and polarized order in the Middle East. The Erdogan regime, to operate comfortably, has wanted and still wants Islamic regimes to surround it.

“Inevitable consequences of this approach can be predicted. For one, Erdogan with his obsession of trying to topple Assad can continue to do dangerous things, including supporting the Islamic State. Second, he can oppose the strengthening of the Shiite-heavy Baghdad government, which is crucial to the struggle against the Islamic State, [as part of the process of] getting Turkey involved. Third, this could seriously cripple the solution process with the Kurds, which is essential for Turkey to find its balance because while the Islamic State is killing Kurds, Erdogan is opposing giving weapons to Kurds while he is doing nothing about it himself. Fourth, by strictly avoiding labeling the Islamic State as terrorist but citing ‘Allah’ several times in everything he says he may be actually encouraging many religious young Turks to volunteer for the Islamic State.

“This Islamist policy worsens the polarization with Israel and plays a role in pushing Israel to extremism. In Islamist publications such as Yeni Akit, there is significant language of hate against Israel and Turkey’s own Jewish community. So much so that for the first time Jewish citizens of Turkey issued a communiqué that said it is racism to hold Turkey’s Jews responsible for Israel’s actions. Erdogan is known to have said, 'They said I am Georgian. One of them said, excuse me, even uglier things, that I am an Armenian.' His inclinations are not a secret. He finds these Islamist Turkish publications are practicing their ‘freedom of expression.’

“Because of all these reasons the [US] President in his meeting with Erdogan, after refraining to talk to him for the past one-and-a-half years, wanted to clearly state that the West wants to see Turkey adopt an inclusive and tolerant domestic policy. It is important to make a reference to this in the statement to be issued.

“Naturally the environment in the Middle East region to which misguided US policies have also contributed to makes it much more difficult for us to directly hit at the Islamic State and requires cooperating with our allies in the region. Turkey is the most important of them. Therefore while drafting the press statement these notes must be used tactfully.”

And now the official US statement:

Following is verbatim the Sept. 5, 2012, official press communiqué disclosed by National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden:

“The President met with Turkish President Erdogan today in Newport, Wales, where both leaders were attending the NATO Summit. They exchanged views on how best to cooperate in the struggle against ISIL [IS] and violent extremism in Iraq and Syria, and on the need for strengthened measures against foreign fighters transiting to and from the battlefield. They discussed the urgent need for effective pressure and diplomacy aimed at bringing to an end the conflicts in Ukraine and Libya. The President and President Erdogan also discussed the importance of building tolerant and inclusive societies and combating the scourge of anti-Semitism.

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