US President Obama congratulates Turkey President Erdogan on election win

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaking at the Presidential Palace in Ankara on Nov 4.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaking at the Presidential Palace in Ankara on Nov 4. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States President Barack Obama on Monday (Nov 9) congratulated his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on recent elections that extended his term in office.

Days before traveling to Turkey for a Group of 20 summit, Mr Obama spoke to Mr Erdogan to "congratulate the Turkish people on the Nov 1 elections" and discuss the summit, the White House said.

Earlier this month, Mr Erdogan's long-dominant Justice and Development Party (AKP) regained its parliamentary majority in a poll seen as pivotal for the future of the troubled country.

The result was a huge personal victory for 61-year-old Mr Erdogan, Turkey's divisive strongman who may now be able to secure enough support for his controversial ambitions to expand his role into a powerful executive presidency.

He was hailed in the West for creating what was once regarded as a model Muslim democracy, but is now accused of blatantly cracking down on opponents and critical media.

Opponents fear that if he succeeds in expanding his powers, it would mean fewer checks and balances.

Mr Obama has had a sometimes difficult relationship with Mr Erdogan, amid difference of approach to the war in Syria and other key foreign policy issues.

Both have vowed to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but Mr Erdogan's efforts thus far have focused on combating the Kurdish separatist PKK, and, to Mr Obama's chagrin, Kurdish groups fighting ISIS in Syria.

The White House said both men discussed "the situation in Syria and the importance of expanding joint efforts to strengthen the moderate Syrian opposition and step up pressure against" the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

"They also discussed ways to create conditions for a negotiated solution to the conflict, including a political transition in Syria," the statement added.

Mr Obama called for an end to PKK "terrorist attacks" inside Turkey, it said.