Obama rejects Erdogan offer on Maryland mosque
US President Barack Obama has turned down an offer by his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to participate in the planned inauguration of a Turkish-funded mosque in Maryland.
According to The Wall Street Journal, citing US officials, Obama also has no plans for a formal one-on-one meeting with Erdogan during this week’s Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in Washington.
The fourth and final NSS convention will kick off on Thursday in the US capital where Obama is expected to tell delegations from 51 nations, plus major groups such as the European Union and United Nations, about steps taken to ensure nuclear materials do not fall to militant groups.
Senior administration officials told the Journal, though, that Obama’s decision should not be taken as a slight since the two leaders met in November at the Group of 20 summit in Turkey, and spoke by phone in February.
“The president has been in such regular contact with few other world leaders,” said a senior official. “When it comes to the NSS, there is not a robust [bilateral] schedule, so it’s not as if Erdogan is being excluded.”
America’s largest mosque complex, officially known as Turkish-American Culture and Civilization Center, has been built with Turkish funding under the supervision of the Turkish religious foundation, Diyanet. The $100 million mosque will soon open in Lanham, Maryland, US media say.
The latest report, however, says the cool reception awaiting the Turkish leader in Washington reflects America’s concerns about Turkey’s ongoing crackdowns on dissent and Kurds fighting Daesh (ISIL) terrorists in Syria.
Turkey, which has been among the main supporters of militant groups operating in Syria, has been attacking positions of Kurdish People’s Protection Units, also known as the YPG, over the past few months, accusing them of having links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group.
The YPG, which is nearly in control of Syria’s entire northern border with Turkey, has been fighting against Daesh, which has seized parts of Iraq and Syria.
Last week, Russia also slammed Turkey for hindering Kurds’ battle against ISIL terrorists, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying Ankara is “frustrating” efforts made to fight the Daesh Takfiri terrorists.