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Erdogan’s Washington visit in doubt over US sanctions and genocide resolutions

The Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Monday that a visit to Washington by Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan could be called off because of the two resolutions passed by the United States Congress.

“Our consultation on whether our president will go to the US still continues. The president [Erdogan] evaluates [the situation]. He will make his final decision in a few days,” said the spokesperson.

The resolutions called on US President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on Turkey and its officials over its recent Syria offensive and to officially recognize the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 as genocide.

Earlier the same day three unnamed Turkish officials told Reuters that Erdogan’s scheduled November 13 visit may be canceled.

“These steps [resolutions] seriously overshadow ties between the two countries. Due to these decisions, Erdogan’s visit has been put on hold,” one of the senior Turkish officials said, adding that a final decision had not been taken yet.

Last week, Erdogan had himself said there were “question marks” regarding his visit to Washington due to the resolutions.

Another U.S. action that may have upset the Turkish regime came on Friday with an official report called “Country Reports on Terrorism 2018.”

The U.S. report has not named the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist threat to its NATO ally Turkey.

Turkey’s latest assault, which prompted the resolutions, was against the YPG militia. Ankara regards the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist armed group inside Turkey.

However, the US administration sees the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which consists primarily of the YPG militia, as a crucial ally in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

Last week, a group of bipartisan senators led by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Chris Van Hollen called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to expedite a visa for the SDF commander Mazloum Kobani in a bid to let him visit Washington to brief the US Congress on recent events in Syria.

On Sunday, the Turkish foreign ministry lashed out at the U.S. report as it did not mention the YPG in name but instead called it “the PKK affiliated groups in Syria.”

“[This] is an attempt to cover up the unlawful position of the US authorities that do not hide their cooperation with this terrorist organization,” said the ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy.

Aksoy also rebuked the report for its calling Fethullah Gulen, another Ankara-designated “terrorist leader”, as “self-exiled cleric.”

Ankara accuses Gulen and his followers of orchestrating a failed military coup against Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government on July 15, 2016. The Gulen movement, which is called by Erdogan FETO, denies the allegations.

Turkey has since detained or arrested nearly 80,000 people and prosecuted more than 511,000 due to their alleged links to the movement, according to the data released by the country’s interior ministry.

“Presenting the ringleader of FETO, another terrorist organization targeting Turkey, as “self-exiled cleric” signifies that the heinous July 15 coup attempt is either ignored or supported [by the US]. It is also a manifestation of the effort to overleap the fact that this terrorist has found a safe haven on US soil,” vowed the ministry statement.

The House sent the sanction resolution to the Senate floor for a vote. If it passes, it will then go to Trump to be signed into law.

According to the resolution, the US would impose financial and visa penalties on Turkey’s defense minister, the chief of the general staff of the Turkish armed forces and the finance minister and sanction the state-run bank, Halkbank.

The bill also says all arms sales to Turkey that could be used against the SDF forces in Syria would be banned and foreigners providing arms to the country’s military forces would face sanctions.

Turkey’s official rhetoric accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in inter-communal clashes during World War One while rejecting that but it refuses any systematic mass killing which is labeled by many countries as genocide.

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