Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US counterpart Donald Trump at the White House on May 16, 2017. Photo: AFP
WASHINGTON, D.C. — After their first official meeting on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan doubled down on bilateral relations and "the fight against terrorism" in the Middle East region.
Trump and Erdogan gave brief statements to reporters after their 30-minute meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C.
"We support Turkey in the fight against ISIS and the PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party]." Trump said. "They'll have "no safe quarter," adding our nations have "shared threats that affect future of dignity and safety for all of our people."
The PKK has been engaged in a three-decade-long guerrilla war against the Turkish state that reignited in July 2015 after peace talks stalled.
Trump said "Turkish courage in war is legendary... that is so true," while thanking Turkey for its soldiers' contributions in the Korean Conflict in the 1950s.
Erdogan said "in the fight against terrorism," Turkey will promote the "stability of the globe" and "peace."
"[The] YPG [Peoples' Protection Units in Syria], HPG [People's Defence Force of the PKK], PYD [Democratic Union Party], taking them into consideration, peace will never be achieved," Erdogan said. "We shouldn't allow them to manipulate the religious and social structures."
There were no specific mentions of the recent US announcement to further arm the US-led international coalition's partnered Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) ground fighters in their retaking of Raqqa — a move that Turkey staunchly opposed because of US support for the primarily Kurdish YPG component of SDF.
Turkey regards the PYD, YPG, PKK, and HPG to be a threat, while they US has maintained that the fighters it is supporting in the war against ISIS pose no threat to Turkey.
The US and Turkey have listed the PKK as a terrorist organization.
Erdogan highlighted the "very well rooted" relations the US and Turkey have had through membership in the United Nations, NATO, and G20.
"We have been enjoying close cooperation," Erdogan said. "In the future we will build on that."
Turkey affirmed 18 constitutional amendments last month. They include the introduction of an executive presidency that would replace the existing parliamentary presidency of government, the abolition of the office of the prime minister, the raising of the number of seats in Parliament from 550 to 600, and changes in the supreme board of judges and prosecutors (HSYK). The changes also allow the Turkish president to remain a member of his politburo while in office.
"The relations are based on common democratic values and shared interests. The relationship we have with Trump will be unbeatable," he added, extending an invitation for Trump and his family to visit Turkey.
Both leaders will attend the NATO Summit in Brussels on May 24-25.