President Trump and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, met Tuesday at the White House amid sharp disagreement over the war in Syria but eager to improve relations after the Obama era.
It was Trump’s first face-to-face meeting with the increasingly authoritarian Erdogan, who has consolidated power since a failed military coup last summer. Since then, his government has arrested or fired tens of thousands of political opponents, journalists, judges, academics, teachers and others.
In a joint appearance at the White House, Trump lavished praise on Erdogan — although he repeatedly mispronounced the Turkish leader’s name — as the ruler of a key Muslim ally and one of the largest members of the NATO military alliance.
He said Turkey remains a valuable partner in anti-terrorism operations and helps ensure that Islamic State and other terrorist groups in the region “have no safe quarter.”
Turkey’s security forces play a key role in intercepting foreign fighters moving to or from the war in neighboring Syria and onward to Europe. The nation also hosts a major U.S. air base that is crucial for coalition operations in Iraq and Syria.
Trump did not mention the issues that most deeply divide Washington and Ankara, but Erdogan did in a lengthy statement.
He condemned Trump’s decision to provide weapons to Syrian Kurdish militias whose fighters Turkey considers terrorists, and he restated his nation’s long-standing request to extradite a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania whom Erdogan accuses of orchestrating the failed coup.
Erdogan said the Kurdish militias that the Trump administration plans to arm, known as People's Protection Units, or YPG, “will never be accepted” in the region.
The Pentagon sees YPG fighters as especially effective and key to an upcoming ground offensive against Raqqah, Islamic State’s self-declared capital in Syria.
Turkey views the militias as an ally of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a separatist Turkish group that Washington and Ankara consider a terrorist organization.
Erdogan also reiterated his government’s demand for the extradition of the cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who heads an international Islamic educational and cultural group from a compound in the Pocono Mountains in eastern Pennsylvania.
The Justice Department says it is reviewing the request.
Gulen has repeatedly denied any involvement in the coup, and in an op-ed Tuesday in the Washington Post he warned of the “downward authoritarian drift” under Erdogan.
There was no sign that Trump and Erdogan resolved their differences.
Follow the link to see the source article published by The L.A. Times May 16, 2017.