Trump hosting Turkey's Erdogan as tensions simmer


A group of anti-Erdogan Kurds shout slogans at a group of pro-Erdogan demonstrators in Lafayette Park as Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan met with US President Donald Trump nearby at the White House in Washington May 16, 2017. "He's going to want USA support for a Turkish operation against Sinjar".

Trump has made his priorities clear.

But he didn't pass up the opportunity to register his unhappiness about the cleric Fethullah Gulen, now living in Pennsylvania, or about the U.S. supplying arms to the Kurdish YPG group that's helping Syrian rebels fight IS.

The protest on Tuesday took place outside the ambassador's residence.

Despite Trump's greeting to the Turkish leader, the relationship has been strained by the United States refusal to extradite a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania whom Erdogan blames for orchestrating a July coup attempt against him.

After Erdogan left the White House, tensions over the Kurdish issue spilled out into the streets of Washington.

Turkey has been a crucial partner in the USA -led coalition against Islamic State forces.

At a joint news conference in Washington after the meeting, Trump expressed support for Turkey in the struggle against Islamic State and the PKK.

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Turkey has been pressuring the drop support for the Kurdish militants in Syria for years and doesn't want them spearheading the Raqqa effort.

Erdogan indicated that Turkey may continue to fight the YPG, whom it considers a terrorist organization linked to the PKK and whom the USA considers among the most effective forces combating ISIS in Syria. Gulen has denied involvement in the coup and remains in the United States. "We've had a great relationship and we will make it even better", Trump said as he sat in the Oval Office beside his Turkish counterpart.

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

But a face-to-face confrontation on the matter between Trump and Erdogan seems inevitable.

The relying on regional allies like Turkey for intelligence-sharing and military assistance as it crafts a Syria policy, particularly as Iran and Russian Federation work to bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.

Flynn's resignation came hours after it was reported that the Justice Department had warned the White House weeks earlier that Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail for contacts with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak before Trump took power on January 20. After a national referendum last month that strengthened Erdogan's presidential powers, European leaders and rights advocates criticized Turkey for moving closer toward autocratic rule.

Erdogan, however, said last week ahead of the trip that he views his visit to Washington as "a new beginning in Turkish-American relations".

That's prompted Turkey to launch attacks into Syria targeting the Kurdish fighters. Erdogan blames Gulen supporters for a failed coup attempt last July and has conducted a crackdown on them, drawing criticism from Washington. The U.S., whose forces are sometimes embedded with the Kurds, has much to fear.