U.S. President Donald Trump, bottom right, stands after speaking during the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg)

Trump, Erdogan Shake Hands at UN With Major Tensions Unresolved

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met briefly backstage at the United Nations General Assembly, shaking hands but not engaging on key tensions dividing the two NATO allies.

Due to a switch in the speaking order at the UN on Tuesday, Erdogan ended up following Trump to the General Assembly podium, bringing the two presidents together. The interaction was brief and cordial, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter.

“Cordial” would not describe the current state of U.S.-Turkey relations. Trump unexpectedly doubled tariffs on Turkey in August as a dispute over the fate of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor detained in Turkey, remained unresolved.

Brunson, who Turkish authorities say had a role in a failed 2016 coup against Erdogan, has become a key barrier in the U.S.-Turkey relationship, with Vice President Mike Pence advocating strongly for his release. The pastor is due in court in Turkey on Oct. 12, and the U.S. has signaled it would like him released by that date.

Turkey didn’t feature in Trump’s address Tuesday to the UN General Assembly. In what could be seen as criticism of Trump’s policies, Erdogan criticized rising global trade tensions and reiterated his support for the Palestinians, who have been angered by the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and cut funding for a UN agency aiding Palestinian refugees.

Erdogan also emphasized his alliance with Russia in Syria, despite his nation’s key role in the U.S.-led NATO alliance.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.