Washington, DC – President Donald J. Trump welcomed on Tuesday (May 16) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey in the White House to discuss how to further strengthen the deep and diverse relationship between the two countries. Erdogan, however, was firm in his remarks against US support for the People’s Protection Units or the YPG in fight against the ISIS.
In the Oval Office, President Erdogan was seated next to President Trump who while welcoming Erdogan told a pool of journalists, “We look forward to having very, very strong and solid discussions. We’ll be having lunch in a little while and we’ll actually be making a statement right after this in the Roosevelt Room.”
Soon afterwards, Trump escorted Erdogan into the Roosevelt Room for addressing journalists. Erdogan in his remarks initially showered eulogies on Trump but soon the tone changed, exposing deep differences over the agenda.
The Turkish President mentioned Trump’s recent decision to arm People’s Protection Units or the YPG, a Kurdish militia group. Erdogan said, “There is no place for the terrorist organizations in the future of our region.”
Mincing no words, Erdogan said, “and 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.”
Mentioning the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a religious leader who the Turkish government blames for an attempted coup last year, and who now lives in exile in Pennsylvania, Erdogan said, “As I have previously done so, I have been very frankly communicating our expectations with regard to the Fethullahist terrorist organization, which we have notified our friends of their involvement in the failed coup of July the 15th in Turkey.”
On his part Trump noted the American “compassion to the victims (of horrible terrorist attacks),” and offered US support to the Turkish nation.
“We support Turkey in the first fight against terror and terror groups like ISIS and the PKK, and ensure they haven no safe quarter, the terror groups. We also appreciate Turkey’s leadership in seeking an end to the horrific killing in Syria. The Syrian civil war shocks the conscience of the whole world, and all you have to do is look on the front page of the papers today and you’ll see exactly what we’re talking about,” Trump said.
Going down memory lane, Trump said, “The American and Turkish peoples have been friends and allies for many, many decades. Turkey was a pillar in the Cold War against Communism. It was a bastion against Soviet expansion. And Turkish courage in war is legendary. That is so true.”
On defense cooperation, Trump said, “Military equipment was ordered by Turkey and the president, and we’ve made sure that it gets there quickly.”
“I look forward to working together with President Erdogan on achieving peace and security in the Middle East, on confronting the shared threats, and on working towards a future of dignity and safety for all of our people,” hoped Trump.
With Trump concentrating on fight against Islamic State, ISIS, there was no frontal criticism of human rights abuses and stifling free speech with crackdown on media in Turkey.
Later in the day, the White House released a statement saying, “President Trump reiterated the commitment of the United States to the security of our NATO ally Turkey and the need to work together to confront terrorism in all its forms.”
“President Trump raised the incarceration of Pastor Andrew Brunson and asked that the Turkish Government expeditiously return him to the United States,” continued the statement, concluding, “President Trump told President Erdogan that he looks forward to seeing him next week during his upcoming international travel.”