Donald Trump called to congratulate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hours after the Turkish president claimed a narrow victory in a contested referendum that will grant him sweeping new powers, according to the White House.
The two leaders had a “pleasant” call which lasted for 45 minutes, official sources said. In the phone call, Trump also congratulated President Erdoğan on his ‘strong leadership’.
International observers monitoring the Turkish referendum concluded in a preliminary report on Monday that the campaign and vote took place in a political environment where the “fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process were curtailed”.
The US president spoke on Monday with Erdoğan, whose triumph in the constitutional referendum escalated concern over his increasingly authoritarian grip on power.
Trump’s congratulatory message strikes a starkly different tone than the statement issued by the US state department on Monday, which urged Erdoğan to respect his citizens’ fundamental rights and noted the report’s findings of “irregularities on voting day and an uneven playing field during the difficult campaign period”.
According to a readout of the call provided by the White House, the two leaders discussed the recent developments in Syria, the US response to the chemical attack in Syria and “agreed on the importance of holding Syrian president Bashar al-Assad accountable”. The readout matches reports of a statement from Erdoğan’s office, which was reported by the state-run Anadolu Agency.
On Sunday, Turkey narrowly approved a package of constitutional amendments that will dramatically reshape the country’s system of government. The proposal replaces the country’s parliamentary system with a presidential one and abolishes the role of the prime minister.