Possible topics when Trump meets Erdogan at White House

Nick Mcbride
May 16, 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is visiting the White House on Tuesday, and the most tense topic of discussion is expected to be weapons - more specifically, the arms the US agreed to give to Kurdish militias to fight ISIS in Syria.

Last week, his top military and intelligence officials traveled here for a final effort to stop the administration from arming Syrian Kurdish fighters for an upcoming offensive in Raqqa against the Islamic State, only to be told by their USA counterparts that a decision to do so had already been made. The administration is trying to balance battlefield needs.

Erdogan's trip comes amid tense negotions between the United States and Turkey over military operations in Syria, worldwide criticism over a disputed and narrowly-won referendum in April that gave Erdogan near-dictatorial powers, and the Turkish government's crackdown in the wake of an attempted coup last summer.

The Obama administration had not acted on the extradition request, responding to the Turkish government that the Departments of Justice and of State would review the evidence presented and act accordingly pursuant to the extradition treaty between the US and Turkey. In a way, Putin was sending a public message to Trump before Erdoğan arrives in the U.S.to not leave any door open for Erdoğan regarding the YPG which could be used as a bargaining chip regarding Trump's Syria policy - something that Erdoğan said he hopes to change.

Ankara- Developments in Syria, especially with regard to the United States decision to arm Kurds in the framework of speeding up the process of liberating Raqqa from ISIS control, have imposed themselves as one of the main issues on the agenda of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

This latest development is likely to dominate talks between Mr Erdogan and Mr Trump and represents a schism that is not easily repaired.

Trump wants to see a quick and decisive military defeat of IS, a goal that makes the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) a precious USA partner on the ground. "They're our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally".

The recent announcement that the USA would supply the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which dominates the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), with weapons to continue their assault against the ISIS "capital" of Raqqa did not go down well with the Turkish Government, as expected. But Turkey has never offered persuasive evidence that Gulen was involved in the coup, and extradition is likely to be blocked by USA courts. The SDF was nurtured and mentored by the US military.

On Wednesday morning, the Turkish government denounced the United States of America decision. His government has insisted it may attack Syrian Kurdish fighters again.

Bulent Aliriza, the director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Trump's decision makes next week's meeting much less predictable than before. He was probably referring, among others, to Brett McGurk, the presidential envoy to the anti-IS coalition who was kept on by Trump and deeply resented by Turkish officials over his perceived affinity for the Syrian Kurds. "This story was written in 2015", Stein said. For Turkey, which saw its relationship with the USA sink at times to outright hostility while Barack Obama was in the White House, this was welcomed with open arms.

Turkey has offered its own troops, and separate Syrian Arab forces under its wing, for the Raqqa offensive, but the Americans maintain that the Kurds have proved their mettle and are ready to move.

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"Right now there are certain moves in the United States coming from the past, such as the weapons assistance to the YPG", Erdogan said Friday. "There's unanimity in Turkey that this isn't a good idea", he said.

Erdogan sent several senior officials, including his military and intelligence chiefs, to Washington for preparatory talks but the Turkish delegation failed to prevent the USA administration's decision to directly arm the YPG. It could also impose limits on the use of its Incirlik air base as a launchpad for the air campaign against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Other reports by VgToday

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