A symbolic gesture by U.S. President Donald Trump reiterating alliance with Turkey left its mark on the Republic Day reception at the Turkish embassy in Washington D.C. Saturday as relations between two countries have been experiencing a tumultuous period.
The reception, which was held to commemorate the 94th anniversary of the proclamation of the republic, was attended by Turkish embassy staff and government officials in the U.S. and by other foreign representatives.
Following the opening ceremony with Turkish and American national anthems, Ambassador Serdar Kılıç read President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's message for the day that has been observed as the most important national holiday in Turkey.
Following the message, Thomas A. Shannon Jr., Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, came to the stage and read Trump's unexpected message, which was the first Republic Day message from a U.S. president in a long time.
"On behalf of the American people, I would like to extend my best wishes to the Turkish people for the 94th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. The two NATO allies have been standing side by side for over 60 years," Trump said.
The U.S. president also underlined that the two allies have been showing efforts to defend regional stability against all terrorist groups, including Daesh and PKK.
"The U.S. once again underlines its unwavering support to the democratic institutions in Turkey and re-emphasizes that it condemns the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. We appreciate the bravery of committed Turkish citizens to defend their democracy on that tragic day," Trump said.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Turkey sending its first ambassador to the U.S., and it shows how old the relations between the two countries are, Trump said, noting that his dialogues with President Erdoğan's visits to the U.S. in May and during the U.N. General Assembly meetings in September shows the value of bilateral relations.
Trump also appreciated Turkey's efforts to host over 3 million refugees.
The relations between the two countries is going through the worst period in the last decade. The presence of Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) leader Fetullah Gülen in U.S. state of Pennsylvania remains a key problematic issue, especially after the bloody July 15, 2016 coup attempt blamed on FETÖ. Turkey has repeatedly called for Gülen's extradition and said enough evidence was presented, whereas the U.S. has responded that it is a judicial issue.
The two NATO allies are also at odds in their policies in Syria. While the U.S. supports the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the ground, Turkey says that the group is nothing but an extension of the PKK terrorist organization, also designated a terrorist group by the U.S., the EU and NATO.
The detention of a U.S. consular staff of Turkish origin in a probe over his links to the FETÖ led to cancellation of U.S. visa services in Turkey, which has responded in kind.