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Turkey’s main opposition leader to ‘snub’ US gov’t officials during Washington visit

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Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), will visit the United States in October but will not meet with US government officials but instead will speak with Turkish students and activists and a US senator, local media reported on Friday, citing a columnist.

Journalist İsmail Saymaz on Friday confirmed in his column on the Halk TV news website that the CHP leader would be in Washington between Oct. 9 and 13, saying that he wouldn’t meet with any government officials but only “activists who believe in a more equitable distribution of wealth and political figures who are fighting for this cause.”

“… When we are a part of the [Turkish] opposition, we don’t meet with the [US] government on principle. Because if you sit at that table as an opposition [party], you’ll only sit down to get their permission,” Kılıçdaroğlu told Saymaz over the phone, adding that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan knew that quite well.

The CHP leader was implying a US role in Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s coming to power in 2002.

The columnist also quoted Kılıçdaroğlu as saying that Turkey, among other countries, had its share of the “ruthless system” of capitalism and neoliberalism and that he was, therefore, challenging “this wild order” knowing he isn’t alone in the world.

“I’ll meet with activists who believe in a more equitable distribution of wealth in the world and political figures who are fighting for this cause. Together we’ll talk about how to make the world a better place,” the CHP leader said.

Saymaz said that Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont as well Turkish students and activists are among those whom Kılıçdaroğlu would meet with during his visit to the US in October.

The main opposition leader subsequently attracted some criticism on social media for his plans to snub the US government during his visit to Washington.

“There is absolutely no reason for Kılıçdaroğlu to visit Washington,” Steven A. Cook, a prominent Turkey expert at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), said in a tweet, to which American academic Henri Barkey replied: “I am curious to know who is advising him? To come all the way here and ‘snub’ the administration?”

Cook in return said that it seemed like “typical CHP incompetent tomfoolery.”

Kılıçdaroğlu is one of the potential candidates of an opposition bloc of six parties for the presidential election to be held in 2023. He said on many occasions that he is ready to run for the presidency if the alliance of opposition parties agrees on his candidacy. The opposition bloc wants to unseat President Erdoğan, whose popularity is declining amid a record level of inflation of 80 percent and a skyrocketing cost of living.

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