Turkish President Erdogan likely to raise Kurdish militants with US during May 16 trip


WASHINGTON, May 11 (APP): A US decision to directly arm Kurdish militants in Syria to fight ISIS is expected to be high on the agenda when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets President Trump during a trip to Washington on May 16.
Turkey has reacted angrily to the US plan President Trump signed off this week to “equip Kurdish elements of Syrian Democratic Forces” to help the coalition group of Arab and Kurdish fighters to retake the Egyptian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Speaking at a press conference during a recent state visit to Sierra Leone, President Erdogan said he would take up his concerns directly with Trump as, he observed, the fight against terrorism could not be carried out in alliance with terrorist groups.
The American decision to directly support the Kurdish militants came amid reported plan by the Trump administration to raise number of troops in Afghanistan to fight out Taliban.
According to a White House announcement, the two presidents will discuss how to further strengthen bilateral relations between their countries and deepen cooperation to confront terrorism in all its form.
Erdogan said of the US decision to equip Kurdish militants that Turkey would like to believe that its allies would side by it and not with the terror groups. He hoped that the “mistake” would be immediately reversed.
Turkey considers Syrian Kurds as terrorists and an extension of outlawed Kurdish insurgents which they fight on its own soil.
The meeting with Trump at the White House also comes after a Turkish referendum that recently approved more presidential power for Erdogan. The White House said that call Trump made last month was on winning the referendum and was not “endorsement” of it the measure itself.
The Turkish government had said the decision to directly arm Kurdish militants was “a threat to Turkey”. The US move came as the Kurdish-led forces that Washington support said it had captured Syria’s largest dam in the nearby town of Tabqa from the Islamic State militants.
The arm support by the US could help Kurdish militants make further gains in their fight and take on ISIS’s main urban center of Raqqa, a proposition that Turkish strongly opposed as it believes that such an operation should be led by Arab ground forces and not Kurdish rebels.
Relations between Turkey and the US soared over refusal by the previous Obama administration to take direct action to uproot Syrian President Bashir-ul- Assad. Relations seemed to be improving after Trump, who in the past had described Erdogan as a strong leader, was the first western leader to congratulate the Turkish president on his victory in the constitutional referendum.