Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump gave strong messages of cooperation against terrorism at a crucial meeting at the White House on May 16, despite continued discord over their respective stances against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish group that Turkey views as a terrorist organization.
The U.S. will “support any effort to reduce violence in Syria and create a peaceful resolution,” Trump told reporters alongside Erdoğan after the meeting, which he said was productive.
He said his country “offers support to the Turkish nation in its fight against [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] ISIL and the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK.”
Erdoğan raised the YPG issue, saying that using YPG militants in the region goes against agreements and “will never be accepted.”
He added that “Turkey will work with the U.S. to fight all terrorist groups in region.”
Erdoğan said he “hopes and prays” for future consultation and cooperation in laying a “new foundation” for the Turkey-U.S. relationship under Trump.
The duo was scheduled to have lunch following the meeting before a press conference.
For his part, Trump vowed that the U.S. will rapidly deliver military orders placed by Turkey. The two were meeting for the first time since Trump took office in January, amid lingering disagreement over Washington’s partnership with the YPG.
Trump authorized last week the direct arming of YPG fighters with heavy weapons, according to which the U.S. will deliver small arms, ammunition, machine guns, armored vehicles and engineering equipment to the YPG ahead of a push ISIL out of Raqqa. The shipments were prepositioned and could be delivered to the Kurdish militia “very quickly,” according to U.S. Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad.
Ankara regards the YPG as an extension of the PKK. However, the United States sees the YPG as distinct from the PKK and as the most effective partner on the ground in the fight against ISIL.
Erdoğan has blamed Trump’s decision to arm the YPG on officials left over from former President Barack Obama’s administration.
The visit is also complicated by Turkey’s calls for the U.S. to take steps to extradite Pennsylvania- based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, believed to be behind the failed coup attempt of July 2016.