Turkey’s Erdogan meets with Kushner to discuss Mideast peace
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Turkey’s Erdogan meets with Kushner to discuss Mideast peace

Trump adviser discusses ‘economic and regional issues’ with Turkish leader amid whirlwind tour of Arab, Muslim countries

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Jared Kushner, left, US President Donald Trump's adviser, prior to their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019 (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Jared Kushner, left, US President Donald Trump's adviser, prior to their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019 (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

ANKARA — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday met with US President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner during the American official’s regional tour to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Erdogan regards himself as a champion of the Palestinians and Turkey has often been vocal in its criticism of the Israeli government and Washington, especially after Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US embassy there last year.

Erdogan said late Tuesday that the two men would discuss “economic and regional issues” at the meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara, although neither side said Syria was on the agenda.

The men were joined by Erdogan’s son-in-law and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, according to Turkish presidency images.

Kushner’s visit follows from Trump’s shock announcement in December — welcomed by Ankara — that he would withdraw 2,000 American ground troops from northern Syria.

Ankara has called for a “safe zone” controlled by Turkish forces to be a buffer area against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.

Trump last week indicated that a few hundred “peacekeeping” troops would remain in Syria despite intentions to withdraw by April 30.

There have been tensions between Washington and Ankara over US support to the YPG which has spearheaded the West’s fight against the Islamic State group.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, meets with Jared Kushner, left, US President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019 (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

Other issues remain between the NATO allies including the US failure to extradite the Pennsylvania-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen who Turkey claims orchestrated the 2016 failed overthrow of Erdogan. Gulen strongly denies the accusations.

Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, the US Middle East peace envoy, met officials from the United Arab Emirates and Oman on Monday alongside Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran. The officials were in Bahrain on Tuesday.

Kushner at a conference in Warsaw earlier this month presented Washington’s plans for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians to be formally presented after Israeli elections in April.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd from right) meets at his Jerusalem office with the ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (right); White House adviser Jared Kushner (center); US Ambassador David Friedman (second left); and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, on June 22, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

On Wednesday The New York Times reported that the peace plan may include a call for investments of tens of billions of dollars to the Palestinians and other countries in the region.

The Times, citing unidentified analysts with knowledge of the matter, said the funds would include around $25 billion for the West Bank and Gaza and another $40 billion for Israeli neighbors including Egypt, Jordan and possibly Lebanon. The paper noted that other sources who had spoken to Kushner said the figures were not necessarily accurate, but confirmed that the investments would be in the tens of billions.

Kushner is reportedly seeking to persuade Middle East leaders to get behind those proposals as he tours the region.

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