New CIA Chief Pays First Visit Abroad to Turkey
Officials from Turkish President Erdogan’s office announced that CIA Director Mike Pompeo would be making his first overseas visit to Turkey on Thursday. The decision showed the importance the new administration attaches to Turkey, a country on the frontline of the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
Pompeo’s visit comes a little more than one day after Trump and Erdoğan’s telephone conversation, a first since Trump’s inauguration in Jan. 20.
The Turkish government has pinned hopes for improved ties on Trump’s presidency, and the call was being closely watched in Turkey for signs of a recovery.
Officials from Erdğan’s office, who briefed journalists on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations, said Tuesday’s phone conversation was “positive and conducted in a sincere atmosphere.” Both leaders stressed their strong alliance and need for close cooperation, and agreed to meet “at the shortest time” possible, they said.
Erdoğan requested that Washington “stand with Turkey” in its struggle against the Gülen movement and stop supporting Syrian Kurdish fighters, the officials said.
Erdoğan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kaıin, told Turkey’s NTV news channel that the Turkish leader not only asked Trump not to back the Syrian Kurds but also presented a plan in which allies could re-take Raqqa, the main IS-held city in Syria, without the Kurdish fighters.
Kalin said Erdoğan told Trump that there were “a series of measures” Washington could take while awaiting for the courts to decide on Gulen’s extradition, in apparent reference to Turkish demands that the cleric be taken into custody and prevented from running his movement. Trump and his security adviser responded by saying they would “start work” to examine the issue, Kalın said.
Trump and Erdogan also discussed a long-standing Turkish call for the creation of safe zones in Syria, the refugee crisis and the fight against extremist groups, the officials said, without elaborating.
Officials said Pompeo would discuss Gülen and the U.S. backing of Syrian Kurdish fighters during his visit.