President Donald Trump called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to personally congratulate him on his narrow referendum win on Monday.
Critics questioned Trump’s congratulatory call because Erdogan’s victory was seen as bringing him a step closer to one-man rule in his country.
The US State Department took a different tone.
“We encourage voters and parties on both sides to focus on working together for Turkey’s future and to maintain a meaningful political dialogue,” said acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner. “Democracies gain strength through respect for diverse points of view, especially on difficult issues.
“We look to the government of Turkey to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all its citizens,” Toner continued. “The United States continues to support Turkey’s democratic development, to which commitment to the rule of law and a diverse and free media remain essential.”
The new referendum would allow Erdogan, who has already enacted sweeping reforms since a 2016 uprising that nearly ended in a coup, to issue decrees, declare emergency rule, appoint ministers and top state officials, and dissolve Turkey’s parliament, according to Reuters.
After 51.4% of voters reportedly opted to pass the referendum, protests against have erupted in the streets of Istanbul. Protesters claim that despite the win, there have been voting irregularities, such as the acceptance of ballots that did not bear official stamps, according to an Associated Press report. Reuters also reported that an initial assessment by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) — the European monitor that was supposed to have been overseeing the voting — concluded that it “did not meet democratic norms.”
In addition to endorsing Erdogan’s referendum win, Trump was reported to have discussed other issues that the US and Turkey have been embroiled in recently.
“The two leaders agreed that [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad should be held accountable for the actions he has taken,” added a statement from Erdogan’s office, in a Washington Post report. Since Assad’s chemical weapons attack earlier this month, the Turkish Health Ministry was one of the first organizations to denounce Syria for its role in that attack, which killed at least 83 people in the northwest city of Idlib.
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