P ress conferences at the White House can be embarrassing affairs, especially when after talks with the President a foreign leader is invited to meet the press. He may expect to face tougher questions than he gets at home but more often he is ignored while the journalists get their teeth into US domestic issues. This past week the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan found himself in what must have seemed like a family feud as one newspaperman asked the President what he thought of allegations that his political tactics resembled those of Richard Nixon.

Eventually, though, Mr Erdogan got the chance to speak about the burden his country is carrying in taking care of some 400'000 Syrian refugees whose prospects of ever returning home are poor; their number is thought likely to increase to one million by the end of this year. He made it clear that he has asked the United States for more help in this huge task which other countries on Syria's border are sharing. If America and other Western countries had decided to take military action in Syria how much would it be costing them after two years? Would it not be reasonable therefore to think that financial help to Turkey and the other countries involved should bear some relation to the costs avoided by the inability of the UN Security Council to agree on military intervention?