Mike Pompeo’s visit to Istanbul, where he will meet Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios on Tuesday at the latter’s Phanar headquarters, sends a clear message to Turkey.
The decision by Donald Trump’s secretary of state to snub Turkey’s leadership, even as his boss is one of the very few Western leaders whom Recep Tayyip Erdogan can count among his friends, makes the message even louder.
The meeting with the patriarch follows a series of harsh comments by Pompeo himself, as well as statements by the Department of State, over the past few months concerning Ankara’s behavior.
On top of the usual annual State Department reports critical of Turkey for the erosion of religious liberty – and the recent reaction to the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque – there has been added recently intense criticism about Turkish actions in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, openly qualified as provocative and dangerous.
Joe Biden’s victory in the recent presidential election will do nothing to improve the situation for Turkey.
Both as senator and vice president, Biden met several times with Vartholomaios, both in the US and Turkey, and has praised him personally as well as for the work the ecumenical patriarch is accomplishing under difficult conditions. Biden has called for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to be protected and allowed to function undisturbed.
Through his statements and now his visit, Pompeo, whose wife is Greek Orthodox, is sending the right messages. They must soon be supplemented by action, so that Turkey not only hears the messages but feels their impact.
Nothing extraordinary is required. Just apply CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act), something which the Congress has long given its approval for, but the White House has so far prevented from being implemented.