Turkey’s Erdogan congratulates Trump after US strains

Istanbul: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has telephoned Donald Trump to congratulate the triumphant US president-elect, as Ankara expressed hope for a new start in relations that were 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 Turkish coup.

Erdogan swiftly telephoned Trump to pass on his congratulations and wish him success, the Turkish presidency said in a statement yesterday.

The pair expressed their commitment to strengthening bilateral relations and continue cooperation on regional and international issues, including the “fight against terrorism”, the statement added.

Erdogan has in the past lambasted the Islamophobia that Trump’s critics have accused the tycoon of espousing.

Trump caused consternation in December 2015 by mooting a ban on all Muslims travelling to the United States.

But Erdogan had said in a speech in Ankara earlier that “a new era is beginning” in the United States with Trump’s victory after two terms of Democrat-held presidency.

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.”

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim earlier also congratulated Trump but also 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,” Yildirim said.

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.

US-Turkish relations have worsened since the July 15 coup, which some ruling party figures even suggested Washington had a hand in instigating.