President Tayyip Erdoğan and former United States President Barack Obama often had a testy relationship, and at some point the latter complained about his inadequacy at convincing Erdoğan, according to a new book.
Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Adviser who was one of Obama's closest confidantes, tells of a tense exchange in his book "The World As It Is."
In 2011, when then-Prime Minister Erdoğan and Obama had a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, one of the topics at hand was Palestine. Rhodes says the Obama administration was trying
to block a U.N. Security Council resolution that could recognize Palestine as a state.
"In a meeting, Erdoğan read back the words from Obama's speech at the previous year's U.N. General Assembly with a thin smile - imploring everyone to work for the goal of being back at the General Assembly the following year with a peace deal, one that could welcome Palestine to the General Assembly," Rhodes writes.
He depicts Erdoğan as someone who likes to debate matters at length and is really stubborn.
Obama comes up with an example to convince Erdoğan, that Palestinians can only reach statehood through a negotiated settlement as South Sudan did after many years.
Erdoğan strikes back: "And it took years of sanctions on the north. Are you suggesting the same for Israel?"
Following the exchange, Obama calls Rhodes to meet him to go through his UNGA speech that was scheduled for the next day. When they review the part on Middle East peace, Obama spills out his frustration with Erdoğan. "I hate it when Erdoğan has arguments to make" he says.
Obama used to count Erdoğan among his best interlocutors on the world stage. In 2012, Obama considered Erdoğan one of five leaders with whom he had forged a close working relationship and that he trusts. Later on, the two leaders had strong disagreements, especially over Syria's Bashar Assad's fate and so-called chemical weapons red line, which pushed their personal relationship to the edge in 2013.
In 2016, the Atlantic Magazine's Jeffrey Goldberg depicted Obama's disappointment in Erdoğan. He claimed that previously Obama saw Erdoğan as the moderate Muslim leader who would bridge the division between East and the West, "But Obama now considers him a failure and an authoritarian, one who refuses to use his enormous army to bring stability to Syria."
The White House quickly disputed the account, but the damage was already done. Since then Erdoğan repeatedly told Turkish media or in his addresses to the public that Obama had betrayed him in Syria and did not keep his promises at all.
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