by Itunuoluwa Adebo
President Donald Trump on Tuesday, sought to repair relations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is alarmed about a U.S plan to arm Kurdish fighters in Syria.
Trump said he and the Turkish president would have a “long and hard discussion” as he welcomed Erdogan to the Oval Office for a meeting three days ahead of a Trump trip to the Middle East. Erdogan said the U.S. shouldn’t work with the YPG Kurdish militia, a group Turkey considers a terrorist organisation, that Trump plans to arm.
Erdogan said in a statement to reporters, “Taking them into consideration in the region will never be accepted and it is going to be against the global agreement that we have reached,”
Trump has worked since his election to improve relations with Erdogan that grew tense by the end of Barack Obama’s administration. Some of the people who shaped Trump’s presidential campaign also have worked on the Turkish president’s pet causes. A firm owned by Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, received more than $500,000 during the election campaign, initially undisclosed, for work intended to discredit an Erdogan political rival.
But the U.S. campaign to drive Islamic State from its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa in Syria put Trump in a strategic bind. His administration concluded the best hope short of inserting U.S. troops would be to arm Kurdish fighters, and the president decided that was worth the inevitable backlash from Turkey, the official said.
“We face a new enemy in the fight against terrorism and again we seek to face that fight together,” Trump said in a statement after the leaders met briefly in the Oval Office. One administration official described Erdogan’s White House visit as a gift that offers the Turkish leader a gesture of international legitimacy a month after a disputed referendum that granted him broader powers.