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Trump, Erdogan vow to fix US-Turkish relationship amid existing differences

18 May 2017

Fresh from securing his grip on Turkey with a referendum to enhance his powers, Erdogan came to the Oval Office with complaints about USA support for Kurdish fighters and what Ankara says is Washington's harboring of the mastermind of a failed coup. The YPG is the Syrian wing of the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist group by Turkey, the USA and EU.

For his part, Erdogan said: "Taking the YPG and [its political wing] PYD into consideration in the region will never be accepted and will go against a global agreement that we have reached".

Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Barack Obama, said of the violence on Tuesday: "Clearly Erdogan's guards feel complete impunity, drawing on tools of repression they use at home & knowing he has their back, no matter what".

Trump said Tuesday that the US would ensure the PKK has "no safe quarter". "There is no place for terrorist organizations in the future of our region", Erdogan said in his turn. But he asserted the US and Turkey's mutual commitment to ending Syria's conflict.

The protests come in the midst of strained United States relations with its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey over the recent arming of Kurdish militia fighting ISIS militants in Syria.

"The relationship that we have together will be unbeatable", Trump said.

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Erdogan was reported to be furious at Trump's decision last week to supply weapons to Kurdish militias known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG, that have taken a lead role in fighting Islamic State militants in Syria.

Turkey, however, sees them as terrorists, because of their ties to Kurdish fighters in southern Turkey who have been waging an insurgency to carve out their own independent state for years.

A source briefed on the discussions told Fox News both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence separately pressed Erdogan for the pastor's release.

"They only have different names", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said recently.

Erdogan has been under fire for a contested referendum that vastly expanded his executive power, as well as his government's crackdown on dissidents and civil society after an attempted coup last summer.

At their joint press conference, Mr Trump made no mention of Mr Erdogan's record on dissent and free speech.

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Those include extraditing the Pennsylvania-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan blames for fomenting a failed coup last summer, and dropping US charges against Reza Zarrab, a Turkish businessman accused of money-laundering and violating USA sanctions in Iran.

The White House said Trump "raised the incarceration of Pastor Andrew Brunson and asked that the Turkish Government expeditiously return him to the United States".

Dustin Sternbeck with the Metropolitan Police Department told USA Today that two people were arrested and one was charged with assaulting a police officer.

"This is exactly the type of violence you see in Ankara and they are exporting it here".

Last month, the Turkish military bombed Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, in one case with USA forces only about 6 miles away.

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