- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2019

President Trump intends to confront Turkey’s president bluntly Wednesday about Ankara’s increasing coziness with Russia, and he will reject Turkish demands for the U.S. to stop cooperating with Kurdish forces in Syria, senior administration officials said Tuesday.

Mr. Trump’s meeting at the White House with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is “essential to addressing the challenges” facing the two NATO allies, one official said.

Turkey’s cooperation is critical in protecting U.S. interests in the region and beyond,” the official said. “This is nearly a 70-year alliance. We are not going to throw it away lightly if there is a way forward.”

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The relationship between Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan has grown increasingly tense since Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria last month to attack Kurdish forces, who are allies of the U.S. in fighting to defeat the Islamic State.

Turkey is demanding that the U.S. stop coordinating with Kurdish forces. The White House said that won’t happen.

“There is no intention for that cooperation to end,” another senior administration official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. also has raised objections to Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-built S400 missile defense system, with Washington halting the sale of F-35 warplanes to Ankara.

“This is one of those very tough problems that the president believes in trying to address head-on,” an official said. “We as allies need to resolve this issue of the S400. One has to move, and then the other.”

Officials said the U.S. relationship with Turkey has “slipped” in the past five years, and that Mr. Trump also intends to raise the issue of religious freedom within Turkey.

“It’s fair to say there are irritants on both sides,” one official said. “It’s one of the reasons this meeting is so important.”

Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan will hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House Wednesday afternoon after their private meeting.

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