May 16 (UPI) — In a meeting at the White House Tuesday, President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged cooperation to fight terrorism — although the United States’ decision to arm Kurdish rebels in Syria has created some new tension between the allies.
Erdogan sees the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe. Last week, he said he hopes Trump’s “mistake” of arming the Kurds will be “reversed immediately.”
Neither Trump nor Erdogan mentioned the YPG fighters during their remarks Tuesday — just the PKK.
“It is going to be very important for us to forge a close solidarity and cooperation in the field of fighting terrorism, primarily with [the Islamic State] and all the other terrorist organizations in the region,” the Turkish president said. “There is no place for the terrorist organizations in the future of our region. … 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.”
“We support Turkey in the first fight against terror and terror groups like ISIS and the PKK, and ensure they have no safe quarter,” Trump said. “We also appreciate Turkey’s leadership in seeking an end to the horrific killing in Syria. … We also support any effort that can be used to reduce the violence in Syria and create the conditions for a peaceful resolution.”
The United States also has angered Turkey by refusing to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania who Erdogan blames for orchestrating an attempted military-led coup last summer.
“I have been frankly communicating our expectations with regard to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, which we have notified our friends of their involvement in the failed coup,” Erdogan said.
Trump did not address the issue.
Erdogan, meanwhile, also noted a change in and around Turkey as a result of the new U.S. administration.
“President Trump’s recent election victory has led to the awakening of a new set of aspirations and expectations and hopes in our region,” he said. “I would like to congratulate President Trump for the legendary triumph that he has garnered in the aftermath of the elections.”
Trump was among the few leaders to congratulate Erdogan on his contested win last month in a referendum on constitutional changes that gave him sweeping new powers.
“It is a pleasure to welcome President Erdogan for his first visit to the White House in years,” Trump said at Tuesday’s meet. “The American and Turkish peoples have been friends and allies for many, many decades.”