U.S. President Donald Trump has congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his victory in Sunday’s referendum that gave him sweeping new powers.
The U.S. president’s phone call contrasts with concern by European leaders who have pointed out how the result – 51.4% in favour of the changes has exposed deep splits in Turkish society.
Mr Erdogan has rejected criticism from international monitors who said he had been favoured by an “unequal campaign”.
“Know your place,” he told them.
The narrow victory was ruled valid by Turkey’s electoral body, despite claims of irregularities by the opposition.
On Monday, Turkey extended the state of emergency for three months. The measure, introduced after a failed coup last July, was set to expire in two days.
The call from Donald Trump was pre-arranged and the focus was Syria – but the congratulations for President Erdogan’s victory means the U.S. president joins leaders from Qatar, Guinea, Djibouti and the Palestinian militant movement Hamas to voice the opinion, while those in Europe have been far more cautious.
It will delight Erdogan supporters, who will see it as legitimising the president’s victory.
But it will dismay opponents, after Mr Erdogan’s fiery tirades against the West and the damning verdict of international observers.
It also exposes a split between the EU and U.S. on Turkey: Mr Trump opting for realpolitik while Europe urges the unpredictable Turkish leader to reconcile a divided country.
And it will reiterate similarities between Presidents Trump and Erdogan on issues like democratic norms and press freedom – though the Turkish president has of course dealt with them in a far more extreme way.
Ultimately, President Trump was perhaps aiming to win favour in Ankara, given that the two sides have fundamental disagreements over Syria.