Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has decided not to hold a meeting with Mike Pompeo, who is due to visit Istanbul next week, because the US secretary of state refused to visit Ankara.
Less than three months before President-elect Joe Biden‘s new administration assumes office, Pompeo will now include Turkey in his 13-23 November trip to the Middle East, where he will also meet officials in six other states, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
However, Pompeo’s aides told their Turkish counterparts that the secretary of state wasn’t aiming to pay a bilateral visit to Ankara, but rather meet Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I.
A press release by the State Department said Pompeo was going to visit Istanbul to discuss religious issues in Turkey and the region and to promote a strong stance on religious freedom around the world, a reference many believe to be to Turkey’s recent decision to reconvert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
“Turkish officials made clear that Cavusoglu wouldn’t meet Pompeo unless he comes to Ankara for an official visit,” one person familiar with the issue told MEE.
“Americans maintain that Pompeo’s agenda is too packed and he couldn’t make space for Ankara. They wanted to have a meeting [with Cavusoglu] in Istanbul, which isn’t going to happen.”