Turkish media is reporting that in a letter to US President Biden, a Turkish-American business lobbying group is calling for a binational commission to address problems between the two countries. According to the Daily Sabah report:
December 21, 2020 Turkey’s oldest business council has proposed establishing a binational commission that would enable easier communication between Turkey and the U.S., help address problems between the two NATO allies and find ways to cooperate. The proposal was sent in a letter to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Dec. 17 from Turkey‑U.S. Business Council (TAIK) Chairperson Mehmet Ali Yalçındağ and comes a week after the U.S. announced sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S‑400 air missile defense system. In the letter, Yalçındağ congratulated Biden on his election as the 46th president of the U.S. and expressed hopes that his administration would contribute to strengthening ties between Turkey and the U.S.
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The Turkey‑U.S. Business Council (TAİK) describes itself as “Turkey’s oldest business council. Established in 1985, TAİK’s mission is to enhance trade and investment relations between Turkey and the United States.” A Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) registration document suggests that TAIK operates under the auspices of the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEIK), indirectly controlled by the Turkish Ministry of Trade, but the filing also questions the significance of this relationship.
In any event, multiple evidence suggests that Mehmet Ali Yalçındağ, the head of TAIK, has ties to Turkish President Erdoğan:
- In 2016, Yalçındağ resigned as head of a media group after hacked e‑mails were said to have indicated that he corresponded with Erdoğan’s son-in-law and showed a willingness to change his media’s editorial line to appease the Turkish government.
- In 2018, Erdoğan appointed Yalçındağ to the Science, Technology, and Innovation Presidential Council.
- In 2019, The New York Times reported that Erdoğan had used Yalçındağ as an “emissary to the Trump Administration.
Further evidence indicates a close relationship between Yalçındağ and former US President Donald Trump. In May 2012, a Trump Organization press release identified Yalçındağ as a member of the board of the holding company that developed the Trump Towers Mall in Istanbul, and in 2018, Turkish media reported that Yalçındağ was elected as the head of TAİK because of his close ties to Donald Trump. The New York Times also reported that in 2019, Yalçındağ engaged in lobbying activities far outside the bounds of trade, including attending a State Department meeting where he pushed for multiple items on the Turkish government agenda, including:
- Calling for the US to extradite Fethullah Gülen, who Turkey blames for the 2016 Turkish coup
- Arguing for Patriot missiles to be sold to Turkey
- Making a case for a Turkish takeover of northern Syria
- Implicitly threatening that Turkey might move closer to Moscow
GIOR has previously reported on organizations close to the Turkish government attempting to influence politics in the US. In October 2020:
- We reported on a SETA Foundation panel about US-Chinese relations featuring journalists from the Wall Street Journal.
- We reported that the former Executive Director of the Turkish Heritage Organization was appointed as a Joe Biden presidential campaign official.
- We reported on a Maryland congressman who thanked the Turkish American National Steering Committee and the semi-public Turkish Exporters Assembly for providing coronavirus aid.