U.S. President Donald J. Trump spoke by telephone Saturday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and discussed working more closely with its NATO ally to improve regional security, the White House said.
“President Trump emphasized the common commitment of the United States and Turkey to work together to increase regional stability,” a White House statement said.
The phone call came amid a backdrop of deteriorating relations between Washington and Ankara, NATO allies whose relations have soured over the U.S. decision to arm Kurds in Syria to fight Islamic State. Turkey regards the Kurdish militias as “terrorists.”
Turkey has also repeatedly demanded, without success, that the United States extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish preacher who lives in Pennsylvania and is accused by Ankara of being behind a failed coup against Mr. Erdogan in July 2016.
U.S. authorities have also charged several Turks with violating financial sanctions against Iran, including former economy minister Zafer Caglayan.
Mr. Erdogan denounced the charges as a politically-motivated decision against Turkey. “For the moment, it is impossible to evaluate this within legal logic. I see this step against our former economy minister as a step against the Turkish Republic,” Mr. Erdogan told reporters.
But he has said that, if the opportunity arises, he will meet with Mr. Trump on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, which begins September 19 in New York.
White House’s measured statement stood in contrast with deteriorating relationship between the two NATO allies. In one week, the U.S. indicted Mr. Erdogan bodyguards, issued an arrest warrant for his ex-minister and a Senate bill proposes to block the sale of firearms to his bodyguards.
Mr. Erdogan’s government also moved to charge imprisoned U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson, accusing him overthrowing the Turkish government.