White House plans to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters regarded as terrorists by Turkey is a relic of the Obama administration, according Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who says his trip to Washington next week will smooth the strained relationship. Sarah Charlton reports.
Turkey's president says his planned trip to Washington next week should help smooth over a widening gap between the NATO allies he blames on the previous Obama administration. The latest tangle: Wednesday's (May 10) decision by President Donald Trump to directly supply arms to Syrian Kurds in their fight against Islamic State. It's infuriated Turkey, who regards them as terrorists. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan now appearing to offer Trump a way out, stating the support of the Kurds was a relic of Barack Obama, and the new presidency was still in a "transition period". (SOUNDBITE) (Turkish) TURKISH PRESIDENT TAYYIP ERDOGAN, SAYING: "We don't find it suitable at all for the United States to stand side by side with a terrorist organisation (...) I see this visit as a new beginning." The Kurds known as the YPG militia have been a cornerstone of American efforts in Syria for years - supported by U.S. air power and ground troops like this Marine Corps escort. But Turkey associates them with Kurdish seperatists at home, the PKK, which is listed as a terror group by Turkey and the States, as well as the European Union. Turkey's fearful gains by the YPG in Syria will complicate those efforts. Erdogan also said he will continue to press the White House for the extradition of this cleric, Fethullah Gulen, said by Turkey to be the mastermind of July's failed coup. He's denied the allegation, while living in exile at a compound in Pennsylvania - protected by the Obama White House citing a lack of evidence. Trump's history with Erdogan has been generally warm. He took a much softer stance against Erdogan's handling of the coup and subsequent crackdowns than some members of his own Republican party. And Trump congratulated Erdogan's victory in a recent referendum granting him increased executive authority.