PoliticsForeign Policy


A US-Turkey Policy Spat Overshadows Friendly Press Conference

In a joint press conference with President Trump, Turkey's President Erdoğan had a few grievances to air on U.S. foreign policy.
Posted at 8:28 PM, May 16, 2017

A mostly friendly press conference between President Donald Trump and Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was overshadowed by a few major differences of opinion.

The tone was generally upbeat.

"It is a great pleasure to welcome President Erdoğan," Trump said.

But President Erdoğan said through a translator he was unhappy that the U.S. agreed to arm the People's Protection Units, or YPG.

The YPG is a Kurdish militia that's fighting ISIS on the front lines. The U.S. decided to send material support to the group, which angered Turkey because it considers the YPG to be a terrorist organization.

"We should never allow those groups to manipulate the religious structure and the ethnic structure of the region, making terrorism as a pretext or excuse," Erdoğan's translator said.

Erdoğan also said he expected the U.S. to turn over Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Muslim cleric who fled to Pennsylvania in 1999. Erdoğan's administration accused Gülen of plotting a failed coup in 2016.

Despite that, Erdoğan says Turkey is deeply committed to working with the U.S. He's likely looking to shore up the country's weakening ties with the West.

Turkey has been in talks to join the European Union for over a decade, but its recent referendum that expanded Erdoğan's power has some EU members concerned about whether the country belongs.

"With a government under President Erdoğan, there is no perspective of negotiating annexation to the European Union," Norbert Röttgen, a German member of the EU parliament, told CNN.