Tillerson meets with Turkish leader without translator in break from protocol


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Turkey’s leaders for more than three and a half hours without American policy aides or a translator in attendance, CNN reported Thursday.

Tillerson met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, with the latter translating, as the three discussed growing tensions between the two NATO allies.


The meeting was an unusual break from protocol, with aides, note takers and relevant translators typically attending meetings between American officials and their foreign counterparts.

“If the meeting is not conducted in English, it is foolhardy in the extreme not to have at his side a State Department translator, who can ensure that Mr. Tillerson’s points are delivered accurately and with the proper emphasis,” former Obama administration State Department spokesman John Kirby told CNN.

“That Mr. Tillerson eschewed this sort of support in what he knew would be a tense and critical meeting with President Erdoğan smacks of either poor staff work or dangerous naiveté on his part,” he added.

A State Department official told CNN that Tillerson has “met before with President Erdoğan, and he’s okay with the foreign minister doing the translation. They have a good, strong working relationship.”
Turkey and the U.S. have been involved in diplomatic conflict in recent months over the U.S-backed coalition forces’ support for Syrian Kurdish forces, including the YPG, which Turkey views as a terrorist organization.

The Pentagon announced in November it was “taking a look” at ending armed support for the YPG under pressure from Turkish diplomats.

“Mr. Trump clearly stated that he had given clear instructions and that the YPG won’t be given arms, and that this nonsense should have ended a long time ago,” Çavuşoğlu said at the time.

“Consistent with our previous policy, President Trump also informed President Erdoğan of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria, now that the battle of Raqqa is complete and we are progressing into a stabilization phase to ensure that [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] ISIS cannot return,” the White House said in November. 

Tags Donald Trump Donald Trump NATO Rex Tillerson Rex Tillerson State Department Syrian civil war Syrian Kurdish YPG Turkey
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