Erdogan congratulates Maduro after controversial election win

Ankara: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has congratulated his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro on winning a new term in office, the Turkish presidency said Wednesday, after an election widely condemned by the international community. Erdogan, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is among very few prominent world leaders to have congratulated Maduro on his victory in a poll that the United States has denounced as a “sham”.

He phoned Maduro during the night to pass on his congratulations, a Turkish presidential source was quoted as saying by state-run Anadolu news agency. Erdogan, who himself faces elections at home on June 24, also expressed his determination to develop relations between Turkey and Venezuela in all areas, the report added.

The US has already tightened sanctions against Venezuela after the poll, which Maduro won with 68 percent of the vote but was boycotted by the main opposition parties and had a record abstention rate.

In response Caracas ordered the expulsion of the top two US diplomats in Venezuela, charging it was the victim of a “political and financial lynching”.

The European Union said it was also weighing new sanctions after the election was marred by “irregularities” and failed to meet international standards.

The 14 countries of the Lima Group — which includes Argentina, Brazil and Canada — are also refusing to recognise the election result.

But at a time of growing strains between Turkey and the West, Erdogan and Maduro have been forging an increasingly strong alliance.

On a state visit to Ankara in October, Maduro hailed a “new era” in relations with Turkey, saying both countries believed in a different, multi-polar world.

He was also a surprise non-Muslim guest at a summit of Islamic leaders organised by Erdogan in December 2017 to denounce the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Earlier this month, photographs were published on social media of Maduro wearing a medieval hat and a giant ring from the popular Turkish historical television drama Dirilis Ertugrul about the origins of the Ottoman Empire.