Trump, Erdoğan meet in White House amid strained bilateral relations

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US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speak to the press in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, May 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his counterpart, Donald Trump, made a joint statement in the White House on Tuesday, after Erdoğan arrived in Washington, D.C., amid strained bilateral relations over US support to Kurdish militia in Syria.

Erdoğan said during the event that Turkey would never accept Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) involvement in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria as it sees the YPG as a terrorist organization due to its ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Erdoğan is in Washington to try to convince the US president to reverse a recent decision to arm YPG militia in the fight against ISIL.

During the presentation of the joint statements, Trump revealed that Turkey had ordered “military equipment” in the US but provided no details.

Underlining that Trump’s election as US president has led to the awakening of aspirations and hopes in the Middle East, Erdoğan said, “And we know that with the help of the new administration these hopes will not be in vain.”

“We find it was the necessary answer to be given to the Syrian regime, especially in the aftermath of the gas attacks that took place. We will not repeat the mistakes of the past. We will continue down this path together,” he added.

Turkey-US relations also became strained after US authorities rejected the immediate arrest and extradition of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic scholar and inspirer of the Gülen movement, which Turkish authorities accuse of plotting a failed coup in Turkey last summer.

Gülen has lived in a retreat in Pennsylvania since 1999 and has a green card to stay in the US. Despite several attempts by Turkish authorities, the US has not yet taken any judicial steps towards Gülen’s extradition and has demanded concrete evidence of a crime.

While Gülen continuously denied his involvement in the coup, Erdoğan and Turkish authorities launched a witch-hunt against followers of the movement that led to the detention of 100,000 people and the dismissal of more than 138,000 from state institutions.

During the joint statement Trump stressed that the US would offer support to Turkey in its fight against terrorism and praised Turkey’s efforts in the war against ISIL, while managing to avoid touching on any of their disagreements.

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