Trump Breaks With State Dept., Congratulates Turkey's Leader

Hours before Trump's phone call to Erdogan, rep shared concerns
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2017 12:07 AM CDT
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a rally outside the Presidential Palace in Ankara Monday, April 17, 2017.   (Press Presidency Press Service via AP, Pool)
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(Newser) – President Trump congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan Monday on winning a controversial referendum that expands his powers, but the US State Department was more wary. Hours before Trump's phone call to the Turkish leader, State Department spokesman Mark Toner echoed the concerns of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe when he pointed to "observed irregularities" in Sunday's voting and "an uneven playing field" before the vote, the AP reports. "We look to the government of Turkey to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all its citizens," Toner said, per the Washington Post. The official result was 51.3% to 48.7%.

The White House said that Trump had also thanked Erdogan for supporting his airstrike against Syria earlier this month and discussed the fight against ISIS, the BBC reports. When asked about the referendum earlier, press secretary Sean Spicer said: "They have a right to have elections and their people participated in that," adding that the US will wait for an international commission to review the results. Erdogan rejected criticism of the referendum as a sign of a "crusader mentality." He said it was the "most democratic election" ever held and told international observers they should "know their place." (Read more Recep Tayyip Erdogan stories.)

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