Erdoğan and Trump agree to disagree in Washington

MICHAEL REYNOLDS

US President Donald J. Trump (R) extends his hand for a handshake with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L), in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 16 May 2017. Trump and Erdogan face the issue of working out cooperation in the fight against terrorism as Turkey objects to the US arming of Kurdish forces in Syria.

Erdoğan and Trump agree to disagree in Washington


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The meeting between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was cordial, and achievement that can’t be taken for granted. But, between the two states, there was little scope for an agreement.

President Erdoğan finds Washington’s cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish militia (YPG) “unacceptable,” while avoiding to make explicit references to Fetullah Gülen.

Agree to disagree

It is absolutely unacceptable to take the YPG-PYD into consideration as partners in the region, and it’s going against a global agreement we reached,” Erdoğan said.

Ankara regards the Syria-based Democratic Union Party’ (PYD) and its 50,000 strong People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia as an extension of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). However, Washington regards the YPG as its most reliable military ally. On May 9th, Washington announced ready to arm the Kurdish militia, which will be the main thrusting force in the campaign against Raqqa, the so-called capital of IS.

However, President Trump did vow to “support to the Turkish nation in its fight against ISIL and the PKK.” Washington insists in distinguishing between the YPG in Syria and the PKK in Turkey. The latter is considered a terrorist organization; the former is not. But, that distinction is not made by Ankara.

Fetullah Gülen

As for the extradition process of Fetullah Gülen, President Erdoğan could do little more than reiterate Ankara’s “expectation” of cooperation. American judicial analysts suggest that Ankara has failed to make the legal case, by not presenting tangible evidence. The real subject of the negotiation now seems to be whether or not US authorities will issue some kind of restraining order, such as house arrest, to ensure that the cleric will leave his home in Philadelphia.

Trump’s perspective

President Trump was the only NATO ally to phone to congratulate President Erdoğan following the constitutional referendum in Turkey.

On Tuesday, he used a common sting of superlatives to characterize Ankara’s relationship to Washington, including “great” and “unbeatable.”

But, as unpalatable as the conclusion of the meeting was for President Erdoğan, he blamed President Barack Obama for the cleavage between Ankara and Washington.

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