Trump, Turkish leader hail ties despite US arming of Kurds

Turkey’s influence in our political history goes back to the days of the Ottoman empire

Trump, unlike his predecessor, Barack Obama, seemed less interested in lecturing Turkey on human rights. President Trump has made clear that his primary response to their suffering is to try to ban even the most vulnerable from being resettled here and to propose major cuts to US -funded programs that support their most basic needs.

Erdogan's visit on Tuesday is his first meeting with Trump since the latter assumed office.

The YPG fights in a coalition of rebel groups that the U.S. considers its main ally in the Syrian conflict, but Turkish officials see the unit as a terrorist organization linked to an insurgency movement in the south of Turkey. The SDF is dominated by members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which in turn is Syrian sister organization to the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), which is on the U.S. terrorist list. A firm owned by his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, received more than $500,000 during the election campaign, initially undisclosed, for work to help discredit an Erdogan political rival.

Turkey has become a close ally of Russian Federation in the past year, marking an extraordinary U-turn in a once rocky relationship, and Turkey is showing signs that it is less interested in having allies in the West.

Putin also noted that he discussed the issue with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

CORNISH: Right, expelling his followers, jailing them and that sort of thing, right?

In this photo taken Sunday, May 14, 2017, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the Belt and Road Forum at the China National Convention Center in Beijing, China. Last week, he said he hopes Trump's "mistake" of arming the Kurds will be "reversed immediately".

Trump could make some concessions to appease Erdogan, suggested Sinan Ulgen of Carnegie Europe.

Rebels have criticized the plan and the United States has voiced reservations, citing concerns about Iran's role and pointing to the failure of past agreements whose stated intention was to decrease fighting.

The talks have been overshadowed by tension over Trump's decision to arm Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (known as the YPG) in Syria, instead of relying on Turkey and its Syrian proxies to fight Islamic State.

But he is also concerned about the PKK's growing presence in Sinjar, and would have the support of local Kurdish authorities if he were to launch a cross-border operation to destroy the group's highland bases.

"There is a huge question mark over which way the relationship is going to go", he said.

In another potential trade off, the United States could commit to putting more pressure on Fetullah Gulen's network.

Turkey has tried to get the United States to extradite Gulen, but hasn't presented convincing evidence to US officials. The Turkish media and President Erdoğan's team have been raising the level of expectations for this meeting since Trump's inauguration.

Big developments or concessions where Gulen or Zarrab are concerned, however, could have domestic consequences for the Trump team. In an effort to eradicate a very complicated and multi-faceted issue, what they tend to do is work on a merely tactical level very limited in scope, dealing only with one side of the problem, seemingly unaware of the devastating implications of their decisions, particularly of those taking a bad toll on their regional allies.

Phillips, the Columbia program director, predicted in an editorial for the Boston Globe that Trump will ultimately reject all three of Erdogan's demands, despite the allies in his corner who may be pushing the other way.

Trump's deal-making skills will be put to the test as he tries to assure Erdogan that weapons won't fall into the wrong hands.

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