Trump, Erdogan meet to mend frayed US-Turkey ties

Cheryl Sanders
May 17, 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took issue with President Donald Trump's reliance on Kurdish militia groups to defeat the Islamic State in a Tuesday visit to the White House.

The altercation came the same day that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with President Trump at the White House. "We should never allow those groups to manipulate the religious structure and the ethnic structure of the region making terrorism as a pretext or an excuse".

Speaking at the White House with Erdogan, Trump hailed the Turkish people as "friends and allies for many, many decades" for the United States and pledged support for Turkish fight against the Islamic State (IS) and a Kurdish militant group known as the PKK. "We've had a great relationship and we will make it even better", Trump said as he sat in the Oval Office beside his Turkish counterpart.

Turkish officials had hoped for a "new page" after the bickering with Mr Obama, but the Trump administration's announcement that the United States would arm the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) - which Ankara views as terrorists - put a damper on such optimism.

Turkey and the United States have disagreed over USA plans to arm Kurdish fighters.

Neither leader mentioned Trump's decision last week to supply heavy weapons to Syrian Kurdish rebel militias, the YPG, who make up a key part of a USA -backed alliance preparing to march on the Islamic State's de-facto capital, Raqqa, later this year. In December 2016, Brunson was charged with membership in the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), the network of USA -based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen who is accused of masterminding the July 2016 failed coup attempt.

The Turkish government fears that arms the USA supplies to the Kurds in Syria will end up across the border. The Turkish leader has faced severe criticism in recent months over his strongman leadership tactics, including alleged human rights abuses and a questionable referendum he won last month.

US military officials view the Kurds there as key in the fight against ISIS, but the Turkish government argues they're terrorists. Gulen has denied involvement in the coup and remains in the United States.

Erdogan also stressed Turkey's efforts against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) that Ankara accuses of orchestrating a defeated coup attempt last summer.

President Donald Trump is holding his first face-to-face meeting with Turkey's president Tuesday - discussing terrorism - amid accusations that Trump gave Russian officials classified intelligence from a foreign ally.

Standing beside Trump, Erdogan said that Turkey would not consider any plans for Kurdish groups to be part of the region's future. Mr. Gulen is living in exile in Pennsylvania, and USA officials have said that so far they lack the evidence to extradite him.

The Turkish government has also raised concerns about a USA criminal case against Reza Zarrab, a dual Turkish-Iranian national, arrested previous year and charged with helping Iran process millions of dollar in transactions that violated US sanctions against Tehran. "We offer our compassion to the victims, and we offer our support to the Turkish nation", Trump said.

Other reports by iNewsToday