Trump hosting Turkey's Erdogan as tensions simmer

Modesto Morganelli
Mag 18, 2017

The Turkish leader met US President Donald Trump for talks on Tuesday. Too exuberant in its support for the Kurds, and the USA risks pushing ally Turkey toward US geopolitical rivals like Russian Federation or emboldening the Kurds to try to create an independent state - a scenario that would destabilize multiple countries in the region.

Evangelical leaders Tuesday praised the meeting as evidence of Trump's commitment to global humanitarian concerns, and worldwide religious freedom. Trump, however, made no mention of the YPG, or People's Protection Units, and gave no sign that the USA intends to change course from a plan to arm the group for the assault on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria.

The violence coincided with Turkish President's official visit to Washington and broke out as Erdogan entered the residence on Tuesday afternoon.

Turkey is also pushing - so far, without success - for the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania, whom the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt against Erdogan in July of previous year.

The Washington Post reports: "Erdogan is staying at Blair House across from the White House during his visit, and was apparently not at the embassy during the demonstration".

-Turkish relations, fueled by renewed supplies of USA weapons to Syrian Kurds. He stressed that the United States would "offer our support to Turkey" in its fight against terrorism and that they would "reinvigorate our trade and commercial ties". Ankara regards the YPG as an extension of the PKK, which has fought an insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe. The United States, the European Union and Turkey all agree the PKK is a terrorist organization.

Another stumbling block to improved US-Turkish relations has been the presence in the US state of Pennsylvania of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Mr Erdogan blames for a failed coup in July a year ago.

Turkey believes the Kurds in Syria are linked to the PKK.

"It is absolutely unacceptable to take the YPG-PYD into consideration as partners in the region, and it's going against a global agreement we reached", Erdoğan said, referring to the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) in Syria.

Trump shared the threat in a meeting with Russia's foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office last week, according to the official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

A source briefed on the discussions told Fox News both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence separately pressed Erdogan for the pastor's release.

But hopes could have been dashed last week when the Pentagon confirmed that it has increased its support for the YPG by directly arming its fighters ahead of the battle to oust the Islamic State from its de facto capital in Syria.

But Erdogan may not be amenable to accepting the USA military support for the Kurds in a quid pro quo. Biden's stance is widely seen as an attempt to pacify Erdogan's Turkey, alarmed by recent Kurdish gains against ISIS in Syria.

Despite this, the two leaders pledged to strengthen bilateral relations. The U.S., whose forces are sometimes embedded with the Kurds, has much to fear.

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