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Trump and Erdogan to work toward finding Syria consensus

16 Mai 2017

It isn't clear who is behind the airstrike but various activists groups reported different casualty tolls, saying the USA -led coalition, which is waging war on IS, was likely behind the attacks.

Moreover, statistics published by the YPG itself indicate that more than 50 percent of the Kurds fighting in the ranks of the YPG against ISIS are Kurds from Turkey. Erdogan's government could limit access to the Incirlik air base, which is an important hub for US fighter jets that carry out strikes against Islamic State targets in both Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon then moved USA troops and armored vehicles along parts of the Syrian border to act as a buffer between Kurdish and Turkish forces.

When President Donald Trump was elected, there were high hopes from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters for an improvement in Turkish-U.S. relations. Turkey has repeatedly demanded his extradition, which the Obama administration refused.

Past administrations have sought a delicate balance. But Erdogan considers the Kurds enemies because of their connection to Kurdish militants in Turkey and their aspiration to carve out a ministate along the Syrian-Turkish border.

Last week, Mr Trump did something even more unforgivable in Turkey's eyes by authorising a plan to provide weapons to the YPG.

In a surprise announcement, the Pentagon said Trump had authorized the arming of Kurdish fighters within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) "to ensure a clear victory over Daesh in Raqa". He'll insist that the Kurds fighting ISIS and attacked by Turkey are really terrorists - along, of course, with all those tens of thousands of coup co-conspirators.

Turkey views the militia as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a deadly insurgency in southeast Turkey for many years and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe. He called on the United States to reverse this decision and said that the "fight against terrorism should not be led with another terror organization" and that "we want to know that our allies will side with us and not with terror organizations".

The three have created safe zones in Syria, touted as a step toward an end of the long Syrian war.

Turkey indeed suffers from ISIS attacks, such as the New Year's massacre at an upscale nightclub along the Bosphorus. Last week's decision, however, arms Kurdish units in Syria known as the YPG. Speaking to reporters as he finished a visit to China before heading to Washington, Erdogan said of the U.S. YPG decision, "If we are a strategic alliance, we should make decisions as an alliance".

The U.S., too, has a wish list for Turkey.

A second hot potato for the meeting at the White House is the Ankara's demand from the US temporary arrest and extradition of Fethullah Gulen, the self-exiled Islamic cleric in Pennsylvania who is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding failed coup attempt on July 15.

Erdogan might decide to release American pastor Andrew Brunson, wrongly imprisoned since October, if he feels he's getting something greater from Trump in return. Security in Iran, Iraq and Syria is also at stake.

Trump's willingness to partner with authoritarian rulers and overlook their shortcomings on democracy and human rights has alarmed US lawmakers of both parties.

While the White House may not be willing to give Turkey what it wants, Bagci said Trump "has to deal with Turkey". That puts added pressure on him to get results.

Improving relations between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies could be hard as experts don't expect Trump to change his mind on arming the YPG.

Now, the American leader may try to cash in. You know, I think the Trump administration has by their own admission said that human rights is no longer going to be a top priority of global relations.

Erdogan, who apparently hopes that he can win Trump over, proclaimed, "I see this trip as a new milestone in Turkey-US relations". Keeping in mind that Syrian Kurds make up the majority of the SDF, which the US was already training and arming, how will this new decision affect the Kurds' military capabilities on the ground and the SDF's involvement in the anti-ISIS fight? On April 25, Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish militia bases in Syria and Iraq, killing at least 20 fighters. Turkish forces have repeatedly fought the YPG after entering Syrian territory last August alongside Syrian rebel units, ostensibly to drive ISIL away from its border but also to clear areas of Kurdish fighters.

The U.S. plan for Raqqa is far from flawless - it would probably have the end result of returning the city to the control of the regime of Bashar al-Assad - but it is better than the Turkish alternative.

Barack Aydin of the Washington-based Kurdish Policy Research Center, said the key ought to be a broader peace process between Erdogan's government and Kurdish opponents in Turkey, which would eliminate these problems. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

Be Civil - It's OK to have a difference in opinion but there's no need to be a jerk.

Trump and Erdogan to work toward finding Syria consensus