Erdogan to meet Trump in Washington next week as tensions flare
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Erdogan to meet Trump in Washington next week as tensions flare

Relations between the two leaders have rapidly deteriorated since Washington gave Ankara the green light to invade Syria in October

In this file photo taken on July 11, 2018, US President Donald Trump (L) speaks with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) as they arrive for a NATO summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels. (AFP Photo/Pool/Tatyana Zenkovich)
In this file photo taken on July 11, 2018, US President Donald Trump (L) speaks with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) as they arrive for a NATO summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels. (AFP Photo/Pool/Tatyana Zenkovich)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will travel to the United States next week to meet US President Donald Trump, the Turkish presidency said Wednesday, amid heightened tensions between the two countries.

In a telephone conversation, “the two leaders reconfirmed that they will meet in Washington on Wednesday, November 13, on President Trump’s invitation,” the Turkish presidency said.

Erdogan had threatened to cancel his visit due to disputes over the Syrian conflict and the US House of Representatives recognizing the mass killing of Armenians a century ago as genocide.

Turkey’s cross-border military offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters, which Ankara said was necessary for its national security, began October 9 after months of Turkish threats and a sudden decision by Trump to withdraw troops and abandon his Kurdish allies against the Islamic State group. Trump’s move was widely criticized by both Republicans and Democrats.

Turkey-backed Syrian fighters gather at a position east of the northeastern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, facing positions held by fighters from the Syrian Democratic Army (SDF), on October 28, 2019. (Nazeer Al-khatib / AFP)

Turkey halted its military operation into Syria through two separate ceasefires brokered by the US and Russia to allow the Kurdish fighters to withdraw 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from the Turkish border but Erdogan renewed threats to resume the operation if promises weren’t fulfilled.

Turkey and allied Syrian fighters now control a portion of the previously Kurdish-held border zone, as Russian and Syrian government troops move into the rest of the areas following a deal with the Kurdish force.

Last month, Erdogan said he could no longer “keep track” of Trump’s tweets as tensions mounted over Ankara’s Syrian operation.

The withdrawal was seen as a green light from the White House for the Turkish offensive. But facing a massive backlash at home, Trump later issued a series of conflicting statements, at times threatening Ankara, and at others, suggesting the US had no role in the fight between Turkey and Kurdish militants.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the US ambassador’s residence during a news conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after their meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, October 17, 2019, in Ankara, Turkey. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Tensions have since risen between the Turkish and American leaders, with the US president urging his counterpart not to “be a fool” in a letter that Erdogan reportedly threw in the trash. Trump has also sanctioned Turkey and warned that he is “fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.”

Erdogan sparked widespread outrage in the US last May when his bodyguards physically assaulted a small group of pro-Kurdish protesters in Washington DC. Close-up footage shared on social media showed Turkish officials dressed in suits beating and punching people in the crowd and, in at least one case, kicking out at a woman splayed on the ground.

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