Trump, Turk­ish leader hail ties de­spite U.S. arm­ing of Kurds

Cape Breton Post - - World -

The pres­i­dents of the United States and Turkey vowed Tues­day to re­pair a re­la­tion­ship bat­tered by years of dis­putes over Syria’s civil war and its var­i­ous fight­ing groups, even as they broached a new dis­agree­ment over U.S. plans to arm Kur­dish fight­ers.

De­liv­er­ing a state­ment along­side Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said the U.S. would re-es­tab­lish its mil­i­tary and eco­nomic part­ner­ship with Turkey. He com­mit­ted to back­ing Turkey’s fight against the Is­lamic State group and a Kur­dish in­sur­gency known as the PKK, which the U.S., the Euro­pean Union and Turkey all con­sider a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Such groups will “have no safe quar­ter,’’ Trump said in the White House’s his­toric Roo­sevelt Room, where he also com­mended Turkey’s “lead­er­ship in seek­ing an end to the hor­rific killing in Syria.’’

Er­do­gan is­sued a state­ment af­ter­ward, con­grat­u­lated Trump for his pres­i­den­tial elec­tion vic­tory. While Er­do­gan called for the ex­tra­di­tion of a Penn­syl­va­nia-based cleric he blames for a failed coup in Turkey last summer, there was lit­tle ten­sion.

The big­gest dis­pute be­tween the two NATO al­lies in re­cent days has been the U.S. plans to arm Kur­dish Syr­ian mil­i­tants to help them fight IS.

Turkey has been pres­sur­ing the U.S. to drop sup­port for the mil­i­tants and doesn’t want them spear­head­ing an op­er­a­tion to re­take IS’ self-de­clared cap­i­tal of Raqqa.

Turkey be­lieves the Kurds in Syria are linked to the PKK. The U.S. sees the Syr­ian Kurds as their best bat­tle­field part­ner on the ground in north­ern Syria.

Last month, the Turk­ish mil­i­tary bombed Kur­dish forces in Syria and Iraq, in one case with Amer­i­can forces only about six miles (10 kilo­me­tres) away. Er­do­gan’s govern­ment also has in­sisted it may attack Syr­ian Kur­dish fight­ers again. The U.S., whose forces are some­times em­bed­ded with the Kurds, has much to fear.

In his state­ment to re­porters, Trump did not di­rectly ad­dress his de­ci­sion to arm the Kurds. But he as­serted the U.S. and Turkey’s mu­tual com­mit­ment to end­ing Syria’s con­flict.

The meet­ing took place with a White House still re­spond­ing to what a se­nior U.S. of­fi­cial said was Trump’s dis­clo­sure of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion about an Is­lamic State ter­ror threat in­volv­ing lap­top com­put­ers on air­craft.

Trump shared the threat in a meet­ing with Rus­sia’s for­eign min­is­ter and am­bas­sador in the Oval Of­fice last week, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial, who wasn’t au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly on the mat­ter and de­manded anonymity.

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