Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is preparing to visit the U.S. this week to participate in the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. That much has been established. But whether U.S. President Barack Obama agrees to meet with him while he's in the country remains to be seen.
"Our colleagues have planned a meeting with Obama, just as we met at the G-20," Erdoğan announced during a press conference Tuesday in Istanbul shortly before departing for the U.S., reported Reuters. "More than 50 leaders are attending the summit upon Obama's invitation, and we are going to talk with a majority of them. We are going to hold a bilateral meeting with Obama."
While it was confirmed that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden would host Erdoğan, Obama's intentions have been less clear. What is clear, however, is the growing rift between the U.S. and Turkey, which mostly has to do with Turkish attacks on Kurdish military forces that the U.S. wants to fight the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Both the U.S. and Turkey are members of NATO, adding to the apparent strain in relations.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama would be diplomatic during Erdoğan's visit, but that may not include the type of one-on-one meeting the Turkish president seems to be expecting.
"We've got a lot of important business with the Turks to do, and we've made important progress through that diplomacy," Earnest told reporters Monday. "I would anticipate that that diplomacy will continue when President Erdoğan visits the United States to attend a nuclear security summit later this week."
While in the U.S. capital, Erdoğan also has plans to visit neighboring Maryland, where a new mosque is scheduled to open Saturday. But Obama has once again apparently snubbed Erdoğan and declined to participate in the Diyanet Center of America's grand opening in the town of Lanham. Officials within Obama's administration attempted to downplay the apparent tension between the two world leaders and instead cited the U.S. president's busy schedule as a reason why he couldn't be at the weekend event.
“The president has been in such regular contact with few other world leaders,” the official said, reported the Wall Street Journal. “When it comes to the NSS, there is not a robust [bilateral] schedule, so it’s not as if Erdoğan is being excluded.”
The two-day Nuclear Security Summit, to focus on the threat of nuclear terrorism, is scheduled to begin Thursday and end Friday.