US arming of Syrian Kurds will dominate Turkish president's visit to Washington

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By Euronews  with Reuters
US arming of Syrian Kurds will dominate Turkish president's visit to Washington

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he expects talks in Washington with Donald Trump next week will mark a new beginning in the troubled relations between the two, which are both NATO members.

Erdogan also said he hoped the talks would result in a “breaking point” in the US decision to arm the Syrian Kurdish rebel group, the YPG.

“We don’t find it suitable at all for the United States to stand side by side with a terrorist organisation and a terrorist organisation to stand by the U.S,” he said on Friday.

The tone of Erdogan’s comments, four days before he is due in Washington to meet Trump, contrasted with angry rebukes from Ankara earlier this week, when the foreign minister said every weapon sent to the YPG was a threat to Turkey and the defence minister described the move as a crisis.

Erdogan said he believed the United States was still going through a “transition period”, and that decisions such as the arming the YPG dated back to policies from the previous administration.

Ankara considers the YPG an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast for three decades and is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and United States.

But Washington sees the YPG as distinct from the PKK and a valuable partner in the fight against ISIL.

The US has already deployed troops to fight alongside the group against ISIL in Syria and protect them from Turkish airstrikes.

This has alarmed Ankara which fears the US supplied weapons could eventually turn up inside Turkey in the hands of the PKK.

A U.S. official told Reuters that the United States was looking to boost intelligence cooperation with Turkey to support its fight against the PKK.

He also said he would pursue “to the end” Turkey’s demand for the extradition of the U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says was behind a failed military coup last July.

That was followed by a purge of tens of thousands of Turkish state employees accused of links to Gulen, who has denied any involvement in the coup attempt.