President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has commented on U.S. President Joe Biden's description of him as an "autocrat," saying that he doesn't know what he meant by the definition.
"Well, as of now, Mr. President's definition of an autocrat remains unknown to me, I don't know what he meant," Erdoğan said in an interview that aired on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sept. 26 when asked how he would describe his relationship with Biden.
"My past is of a political past, and in my political past, which dates back to four decades, I've always internalized democracy and I have dedicated these four decades to servicing my people. That's the kind of a leader I am and this is how I came to be what I am today," he also said.
Noting that he won in every election he competed in in the past 20 years, Erdoğan said that this was made possible because "my people never complained of me."
"I became the president, and I still am the president of my country servicing my people. This is the process, and I really don't know what Mr. President meant by saying autocrat," the Turkish President said.
Erdoğan also said that Biden never raised the issue of Turkey's human rights track record, seen as extremely troublesome by international rights advocacy groups.
"He never mentioned any of these issues to me. Whenever we got together, he's very respectful towards me. And ever since the days when he was the vice president, he was always very respectful-- that's how he approached me, and it is very difficult for me to understand why he's using such a definition when he's talking about me," he said, once again stressing his discontent with the word "autocrat."
Since taking office, Biden has made a deliberate show of keeping Erdoğan at arm’s length. Although Turkey is a NATO ally, Biden called Erdoğan for the first time on April 23 to give him advance warning that he would be using the term “genocide” in the White House’s annual message to mark the April 24 anniversary of the mass slaughter of the Armenians in 1915.
The pair did eventually meet on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels in June, and the Biden administration has toned down its earlier critiques of Erdoğan.
"The last time we got together was in Brussels in June. We just discussed the situation vis-a-vis the Karzai airport in Afghanistan when they were preparing to withdraw from the airport. He proposed us to possibly run the airport, and this is a great demonstration of his confidence in us. He trusts us enough to propose us to run the Karzai airport," Erdoğan told CBS News.
"These are his thoughts and impressions on us, and it is still very difficult for me to understand why he would deviate from that now. And he would call me an autocrat. I wished to have seen- Mr. President would talk to me about these issues directly and tête-à-tête," he added.
According to Erdoğan, Biden is not having bilateral meetings with leaders due to the pandemic.
"We have invited him for a prospective bilateral, but he didn't respond positively," he said.