Trump, Erdogan Avoid Discord Over Kurds in White House Talks
After meetings Tuesday at the White House, President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, praised the strength of the two countries' relations, while at the same time sidestepping their differences over strategies for confronting Islamic State extremists in northern Syria.
Both Trump and Erdogan described bilateral ties as strong. "We've had a great relationship," the U.S. president said, "and we will make it even better."
Neither leader mentioned Trump's decision last week to supply heavy weapons to Syrian Kurdish rebel militias, the YPG, who make up a key part of a U.S.-backed alliance preparing to march on the Islamic State's de-facto capital, Raqqa, later this year.
Turkey, which has battled Kurdish separatists since 1984 in its southeast, has voiced broad opposition to the presence of YPG fighters in the anti-jihadist coalition. Erdogan has argued that YPG's ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party make it likely that any U.S. weaponry supplied to the Syrian Kurds will eventually end up in Turkey, in the hands of the outlawed PKK.
Erdogan has called the decision to provide U.S. arms "contrary to our strategic relations to the U.S." But there were no public signs of friction Tuesday, as Trump and Erdogan struck public poses suggesting full agreement on the need to capture the IS stronghold at Raqqa.
"There is no place for the terrorist organizations in the future of our region," Erdogan said.
Trump to Give Speech on Islam While in Saudi Arabia
U.S. President Donald Trump plans to give a major speech on the Islamic faith during his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, home to the religion’s major shrines.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters Tuesday that Trump, who is leaving for Saudi Arabia on Friday, would meet and have lunch with leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries and deliver “an inspiring, direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president's hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam.”
McMaster said Trump’s first overseas trip as president is aimed at promoting unity among Muslims, Jews and Christians, with visits also set for Israel and the Vatican as part of a five-nation, nine-day trip.
Trump, a Christian, has sparked some of the most controversial moments of his campaign for the White House and his nearly four-month presidency with comments and policies related to Muslims.