President Donald Trump welcomed Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan Tuesday to the White House amid tensions over the U.S. arming Kurdish militias in Syria to help push ISIS out of Raqqa and Turkish extradition demands for Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based cleric accused of organizing last year's failed coup.
Trump highlighted his support for Turkey in the fight against terror and terror groups, including ISIS and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) — considered a terrorist group by the U.S., Turkey and Europe.
The White House's recent decision to arm Kurdish militias in Syria worries Turkey as Ankara sees the militia as terrorists and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party. They want the Trump administration to reverse course and use its own forces.
"We support Turkey in the first fight against terror and terror groups like ISIS and the PKK, and ensure they have no safe quarter, the terror groups," Trump said. "We also appreciate Turkey's leadership in seeking an end to the horrific killing in Syria. The Syrian civil war shocks the conscience of the whole world. And all you have to do is look in the front page of the papers today and you'll see exactly what we're talking about. We also support any effort that can be used to reduce the violence in Syria and create the conditions for a peaceful resolution."
Erdogan, for his part, was deeply critical of the Kurdish militia in Syria as well as the Democratic Union Party saying "there is no place for the terrorist organizations in the future of our region."
The Turkish president said he has been frank in discussing his concerns over Gulen's extradition.
Erdogan called Trump's November victory a point of "awakening" in the Middle East, setting new aspirations, expectations and hopes in the region.
Trump capped off the joint statement with Erdogan by calling the meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov "very, very successful" from the standpoint of united to fight terrorism — comments that come amid new reports that Trump disclosed potentially highly classified information to Russian emissaries last week.
The president, responding to a shouted question from reporters, said that getting "as many" counties to help fight terrorism as possible was important, and "one of the beautiful things" happening with countries, like Turkey.