ISTANBUL: Turkey on Wednesday congratulated Donald Trump on his US election victory, expressing hopes for a “new page” in relations that have strained considerably under the presidency of Barack Obama.
The warm reception from Ankara for Trump’s stunning win came as the two key NATO allies seek to overcome disputes ranging from Syria to the extradition of the alleged mastermind of the July 15 failed coup.
“I congratulate Mr. Trump and I wish him success,” said Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in a speech in Ankara.
Yildirim said he urged the president-elect to as soon as possible extradite the US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of masterminding the coup bid. Gulen denies the charges.
“If you extradite in a short time the head of a terror organisation who has damaged our historic friendship, I am sure that you can give Turkish-US relations a new start and open a new page.”
American authorities are studying the evidence against Gulen provided by Turkey before deciding on extradition. The slowness of the process has caused frustration in Ankara.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan—who has repeatedly lambasted the Islamophobia that Trumps’s critics accuse the tycoon of espousing—stopped short of issuing formal congratulations but appeared at ease with the result.
Trump had in December 2015 caused consternation by mooting a ban on all Muslims traveling to the United States.
“The American people have made a choice (to end two terms of Democratic leadership) and with this choice a new era is beginning,” Erdogan said in Ankara.
He expressed hope the election of Trump “will help the taking of good steps regarding rights and freedoms in the world and also developments in the region.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu congratulated Trump on Twitter, saying Turkey wanted to reinforce a strategic cooperation “based on trust.”
US-Turkish relations have worsened since the July 15 coup, which some ruling party figures even suggested Washington had a hand in instigating.
Turkey and the US have also locked horns over the ongoing civil war in Syria, in particular the role of the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) militia.
Washington backs the YPG as a key force driving back Islamic State jihadists but Ankara regards the group as a terror organization bent on carving out an autonomous Kurdish region on Turkey’s borders.
Ankara was deeply alarmed in the election campaign by comments from Trump’s vanquished Democratic rival Hillary Clinton who proposed arming the YPG with “the equipment they need.”
Erdogan spat back in October that the proposal was “politically inept.” AFP