Politics

Citing Attendance Issues, US-Turkish Trade Groups Postpone Annual Business Conference

Reuters

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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A U.S.-Turkish business conference set to be held at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., next month has been postponed in order to “facilitate greater attendance” for the annual conclave.

The decision comes amid thawing diplomatic and business relations between the American and Turkish governments.

The conference, hosted by the American-Turkish Council (ATC) and Turkish-American Business Council (TAIK), was scheduled for the end of April. Ahval, a news outlet that covers Turkish politics, reported on Monday that the conference was being postponed because of attendance issues. Ahval’s sources said that some major American defense companies have decided to end their sponsorship of the ATC-TAIK event.

The conference, which is the 37th annual gathering of the two trade groups, “will be rescheduled for Fall 2018 in order to facilitate greater attendance from both countries, which we believe will improve the conference’s capacity to promote thriving bilateral economic relations,” reads an ATC email cited by Ahval and obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Last year’s conference was held for the first time at the Trump International Hotel. TAIK’s chairman at the time was Ekim Alptekin, a Dutch-Turkish businessman who gained notoriety as former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s lobbying client. (RELATED: Trump Hotel To Host Conference For Group Chaired By Michael Flynn’s Turkish Lobbying Client)

Alptekin signed a $600,000 contract in August 2016 with Flynn’s intelligence firm, Flynn Intel Group, to provide consulting and lobbying work aimed at securing the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a cleric exiled in the U.S. who the Turkish government claims was behind a failed July 2016 coup attempt in Ankara and Istanbul.

Flynn, his firm and Alptekin registered as foreign agents of Turkey in 2017 over the work. TAIK claims to be independent of the Turkish government, however, the council has increasingly come under the control of Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (RELATED: Michael Flynn Is Lobbying For Turkish Businessman With Ties To Turkish Government)

Though ATC’s email to conference participants cited attendance as one of the reasons for postponing the three-day meeting, the trade group’s marketing and communications director quibbled with the idea that lack of attendance was the reason for rescheduling the event.

“We are simply trying to create a better environment to foster bilateral economic relations,” Rüya Eichelberger, the director of marketing at ATC, told TheDCNF.

Eichelberger did not dispute the email’s accuracy.

“The lack of attendance was not the reason for our decision in the postponement,” she added.

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