Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has invited US President Donald Trump to visit Turkey in 2019, a White House spokesman said on Monday. (Reuters Photo/Kayhar Ozer)

President Erdoğan Has Invited Trump to Visit Turkey in 2019: White House


DECEMBER 26, 2018

Washington. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has invited US President Donald Trump to visit Turkey in 2019, a White House spokesman said on Monday.

"While nothing definite is being planned, the President is open to a potential meeting in the future," White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

The conflict in Syria following Trump's announcement of a US pullout, the fallout from the murder of a US-based Saudi journalist in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Turkey's demand for the extradition of a Muslim cleric from the United States are among the main issues occupying the two NATO allies.

The Turkish presidency said Trump and Erdoğan agreed during a phone call on Sunday to coordinate to prevent an authority vacuum from developing as the United States withdraws from Syria.

Erdogan welcomed Trump's abrupt decision last week to withdraw American troops from Syria, which has upended US policy in the region and would remove a source of friction between the two countries.

Washington has backed Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters while Turkey brands the group a terrorist organization.

A senior US official said Trump had not discussed the pullout decision with Erdoğan in advance.

US military officials will visit Turkey this week to discuss the details of the Syria pullout with their counterparts, an Erdoğan spokesman said on Monday.

Trump and Erdoğan have taken different tacks in their response to the Oct. 2 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump has said he wants Washington to stand by the Saudi government and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite a CIA assessment it was likely the prince had ordered the killing.

Erdoğan has pushed to keep international attention on Khashoggi's killing and put the spotlight on the prince. Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder.

Trump said last month he was not considering extraditing Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkey blames for a failed 2016 coup, as part of efforts to ease Turkish pressure on Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi.

Turkey's foreign minister said last week that during a meeting with Erdoğan in Buenos Aires several weeks ago, Trump said he was working on extraditing Gülen.

A senior White House official later said that during the Argentina meeting, Trump did not commit to handing over Gülen to Turkey.