Turkey’s top diplomat has presented top Trump administration officials with a series of big requests, including extradition of scores of people linked to an exiled Turkish cleric and a permanent exemption from US sanctions for importing Iranian oil.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he had given Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton a list of 84 people tied to Fetullah Gulen whom Ankara wants extradited to face charges related to a failed coup.
The 84 include Gulen himself, who lives in Pennsylvania and denies involvement in the 2016 coup attempt.
Cavusoglu gave no indication as to the reaction to the list from either Pompeo or Bolton. But he said he was pleased that the US was looking at Turkey’s request.
Turkey has sought Gulen’s extradition in the past but has been rebuffed. In addition to the extraditions, Cavusoglu said he had raised Turkey’s request to make permanent a temporary waiver of US sanctions it was granted earlier this month to allow it to continue to import Iranian oil without penalty.
He said a permanent waiver is necessary because Turkey could not make up for a loss in Iranian oil purchases. “We cannot diversify further,” he told reporters at a news conference at the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington.
The Trump administration earlier this month re-imposed all sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the terms of the nuclear deal that the president withdrew from in May.
Those include sanctions on countries and companies that continue to do business with designated Iranian firms, such as its state-owned oil company.
The US has been demanding the countries reduce their Iranian oil imports to zero but granted waivers to eight nations to give them more time to do so.
Cavusoglu, however, said Turkey could not and would not halt all imports from its neighbor. After meeting Cavusoglu, Pompeo said U.S. relations with the NATO ally had improved since the release of jailed American pastor Andrew Brunson in October.
Pompeo said he had welcomed “positive momentum in our relationship following the release of Pastor Brunson and urged reopening additional channels to address issues of mutual concern.”
Still, he said the US remains concerned about several local US Consulate employees and a NASA scientist who remain jailed in Turkey. He made no mention of the Turkish demands.
In the news conference, Cavusoglu made clear that differences between Washington and Ankara remain deep. He said the Trump administration’s attempt to “corner” Iran was “unwise” and “dangerous” for stability in the broader Middle East. He also accused the administration of taking Israel’s side in the conflict with the Palestinians, saying the US has lost credibility as an honest broker for peace.