President Trump said during a meeting with Turkey’s president Wednesday that the U.S. plans to expand its trade relationship with Turkey despite the recent strain in diplomatic relations resulting from the country’s invasion of northern Syria.
“Frankly, we’re going to be expanding our trade relationship very significantly,” Trump said in the Oval Office alongside Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Trump added that he is hopeful the two countries could strike a $100 billion trade deal. Commerce Department officials visited the White House Wednesday to participate in talks about the possibility of such a deal, the president said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this week that President Trump planned to raise Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria in his meeting with Erdoğan as well.
President Trump announced last month that the U.S. would withdraw the troops stationed in northeastern Syria, a move that drew bipartisan criticism and warnings that Turkey and the Islamic State would step into the void created by the troop withdrawal. Trump argued the Islamic State has been defeated in the region and said he does not want the U.S. to “police” the area any longer. However, he vowed to punish Turkey if the country takes any action the U.S. considers “off limits” in the wake of the decision.
After the U.S. troops were removed from the region, Turkey launched a military operation into northeastern Syria against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, displacing 200,000 people and causing dozens of civilians deaths.
Trump briefly imposed sanctions and hiked tariffs on Turkey in retaliation for the Syria offensive but lifted them when Turkey agreed to a temporary cease-fire in northeastern Syria.
A group of House lawmakers representing both sides of the aisle on Friday called on Trump t0 withdraw his invitation to Erdogan, citing Turkey’s cozy relationship with Russia and the damage Turkey’s invasion of Syria has done to U.S. national security.