Turkey is pleased by the way U.S. Donald Trump is approaching issues, and would like a sit-down meeting to discuss the bilateral partnership, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday, calling the U.S. and Turkey allies.
“The way President Trump is approaching matters is encouraging, makes us happy,” Erdogan told CNN International in an exclusive interview.
“We are going to sit down and determine a roadmap as two strategic partners, the United States and Turkey, as allies, as important countries in NATO, we believe that we can resolve significant problems,” he added.
“Therefore we do not have any difficulties on that front,” Erdogan said.
Asked about Trump’s telephone call to congratulate Erdogan on his victory in Sunday’s historic referendum, in which a majority of Turkish voters voted in favor of constitutional changes, Erdogan recalled that it took place amid Easter celebrations, and added that he hopes for “a face-to-face meeting and to take ahead, take forward our relationship.”
“We agreed we will have that meeting in due course,” he added.
The constitutional changes move Turkey from a parliamentary system of government to a presidential one.
According to presidential sources, the leaders also discussed cooperation on Syria and against terrorism as well as the Assad regime’s chemical attack earlier this month that killed some 100 civilians.
Trump also thanked Turkey for supporting for U.S. missile strikes on an Assad regime air base in retaliation for the chemical attack, and both men stressed the need for cooperation in the fight against terror groups, including Daesh.
Erdogan lashed out at allegations that the new charter would pave the way for dictatorship. “Where dictatorships exist, you don’t have to have a presidential system. To have an executive presidency system or parliamentary system in place is not a precondition for a dictator to rule.”
“If you claim that a dictator will emerge out of a ballot box, it will be unjust, unfair to the person being elected. And the choices of the people will have been insulted if you say such things. Democracy gains the power from the people,” he said.
He also denied claims that the changes would enact a one-man rule.
“This is not a system belonging to Tayyip Erdogan. I am mortal. I could die any time. Therefore is it possible to make a system for a mortal being who could die at any moment?” he said. “This system represents a change, a transformation in the democratic history of Turkey.
Reminded that “it was a win with slimmest of margin 51.4 percent to 48.6” in the referendum, Erdogan said a win was a win.
“I come from a football background and I played football many years,” he said. “Whether you win 1-0 or 5-0 the points you will get at the end will be the same. What matters most at the end of the day is the score and to win the game.”
OSCE’s referendum report
Erdogan also lashed out at an OSCE report critical of Turkey’s handling of Sunday’s referendum.
On Monday, the OSCE claimed a “lack of equal opportunities, one-sided media coverage and limitations on fundamental freedoms” had created an “unlevel playing field” in Turkey’s referendum.
“This week there will be an election in France under a state of emergency. And we are reviewing the state of emergency every three months but their state of emergency has been extended for the entire year. But nobody is discussing it,” Erdogan said.
“Everything is quite clear, the Western world has played certain games with Turkey and those games have failed. This is something they are having difficulty digesting,” the president added.
Addressing a question on whether Ankara was closing the door to the EU by planning to reintroduce the death penalty, Erdogan said the bloc had made Turkey wait at its door for the last 54 years.
“I am asking you which country has been waiting for 54 years at the threshold for EU membership? In terms of political relations, this is unsustainable. This is not tolerable,” Erdogan said.
“Until today we have fulfilled the criteria, we did what we were supposed to. But the European Union failed to keep its promises made to Turkey,” the president said.
He said there were 3 million refugees in Turkey and the EU had pledged a 6 billion euro aid package to help Turkey care for the millions of refugees, but had so far received only 725 million euros ($777 million) from UNESCO and $550 million from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“If they do keep their promises we can sit down. We can see which steps are to be taken,” the president added.