Donald Trump boasts he and Turkish strongman Tayyip Erdogan 'have been friends for a long time' as they meet in Oval Office amid protests outside White House over 'betrayal' of the Kurds in Syria

  • Donald Trump welcomes Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to Oval Office with both their first ladies present
  • Visit comes just a month after Erdogan ordered troops into northern Syria after Trump told him  U.S. troops were being pulled out of the zone
  • 'We've been friends for a long time, almost from Day 1. We understand each others' country. We understand where we are coming from,' Trump said
  • 'They're highly respected in their country and in the region,' Trump said of Erdogan and his wife Emine
  •  In front of the White House, protesters denounced Erdogan's visit and urged Trump to protect Kurds threatened by Turkey's incursion in Syria

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Donald Trump on Wednesday lauded his relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the leaders held a meeting to expand trade and overcome mounting differences between the two NATO allies ranging from Syria policy to Turkey's purchase of a Russian missile defense system.

Trump's warm welcome of the Turkish president comes amid anger in Congress about Ankara's October 9 offensive into Syria to drive out a Kurdish militia, Washington's main partner in the fight against Islamic State.

'We've been friends for a long time, almost from Day 1. We understand each others' country. We understand where we are coming from,' Trump told Erdogan as they sat next to each other in the Oval Office.

'They're highly respected in their country and in the region,' Trump said of Erdogan and his wife Emine..

During the meeting, dozens of Kurds, Armenians and their supporters gathered outside the White House to protest. 

Welcome: Donald Trump gave an Oval Office reception to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, and his wife Emine, who also spent time with Melania Trump. The official portrait was taken by the Turkish government's state-run news agency

Welcome: Donald Trump gave an Oval Office reception to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, and his wife Emine, who also spent time with Melania Trump. The official portrait was taken by the Turkish government's state-run news agency 

Lunch time: Turkey's president Erdogan was given a working lunch with top Trump officials including (second right) Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, and Wilbur Ross, the Commerce Secretary

Lunch time: Turkey's president Erdogan was given a working lunch with top Trump officials including (second right) Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, and Wilbur Ross, the Commerce Secretary

Wider view: The presidents' entourages met across the cabinet room table. Trump brought Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (to his right) and son-in-law Jared Kushner

Wider view: The presidents' entourages met across the cabinet room table. Trump brought Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (to his right) and son-in-law Jared Kushner

Protests: The invasion of northern Syria by Turkey after Trump told Erdogan he would remove U.S. troops from the area was the focus of part of the anti-Erdogan protests outside the White House

Protests: The invasion of northern Syria by Turkey after Trump told Erdogan he would remove U.S. troops from the area was the focus of part of the anti-Erdogan protests outside the White House

Demonstration: In front of the White House, protesters denounced Erdogan's visit and urged Trump to protect Kurds threatened by Turkey's incursion in Syria.

Demonstration: In front of the White House, protesters denounced Erdogan's visit and urged Trump to protect Kurds threatened by Turkey's incursion in Syria.

Face to face: When they moved into the Oval Office, Melania sat across from Emine on an opposite couch

Face to face: When they moved into the Oval Office, Melania sat across from Emine on an opposite couch

Under pressure: The conversation took place during the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry against Trump, which he called a 'hoax'

Under pressure: The conversation took place during the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry against Trump, which he called a 'hoax'

Making his mark: Trump and Melania watched as the Turkish president signed a guest book at the White House

Making his mark: Trump and Melania watched as the Turkish president signed a guest book at the White House 

White House tour: The Turkish state-run press agency photographed the presidents and first ladies walking to the Oval Office
White House tour: The Turkish state-run press agency photographed the presidents and first ladies walking to the Oval Office

White House tour: The Turkish state-run press agency photographed the presidents and first ladies walking to the Oval Office

The protesters waved Kurdish and American flags in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, and banged drums and chanted slogans demanding Turkish-backed forces withdraw from northern Syria after launching an attack on U.S.-allied Kurds in the region last month. 

The demonstration, co-organized by a pro-Kurdish group and pro-Armenian group, comes as Trump and Erdogan pose themselves to expand trade between the U.S. and Turkey – it also is happening at the same time impeachment inquiry public hearings commence across town on Capitol Hill.

The protesters denounced Erdogan's visit and urged Trump to protect Kurds threatened by Turkey's incursion in Syria.

One protester’s sign read, 'America Stand With Your Kurdish Allies.'

Trump also said they will be discussing Turkey’s purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system. Trump also added that the two sides would talk about a potential $100-billion trade deal.

'We're also talking about the trade deal ... Frankly, we're going to be expanding our trade relationship very significantly,' Trump said.

U.S. goods and services trade with Turkey in 2017 totaled an estimated $24 billion. 

Despite his warm welcome, the two NATO allies have been at loggerheads for months now and their ties hit a new crisis point last month over Syria, after Erdogan began a cross-border incursion against America's Kurdish allies and upended the U.S. presence there. 

Trump withdrew American troops from northern Syria last month, paving the way for Turkish forces to launch an offensive south against Kurdish forces in the region. Kurdish forces station there are allied with the U.S. to help in the fight against Islamic State militants. 

Photo op: Trump gave a thumbs up as they posed for photos together at the White House

Photo op: Trump gave a thumbs up as they posed for photos together at the White House

Strike a pose: The two leaders and their wives also took photos at the West Wing Colonnade before entering the Oval Office

Strike a pose: The two leaders and their wives also took photos at the West Wing Colonnade before entering the Oval Office 

Warm welcome: Emine clasped Melania's hand as they said hello following their arrival

Warm welcome: Emine clasped Melania's hand as they said hello following their arrival 

Anti-Erdogan: Protesters holding the flag of Kurdistan - a concept not recognized by the Turkish government. It is used by Kurdish separatist movements in Turkey. A separate flag is used by the autonomous Kurdish territory in northern Syria which Turkey invaded

Anti-Erdogan: Protesters holding the flag of Kurdistan - a concept not recognized by the Turkish government. It is used by Kurdish separatist movements in Turkey. A separate flag is used by the autonomous Kurdish territory in northern Syria which Turkey invaded

Target Erdogan: Protesters linked the Turkish strongman to ISIS

Target Erdogan: Protesters linked the Turkish strongman to ISIS 

Accusations: As well as Kurdish groups, other protests outside the White House centered on the slaughter of Greeks and Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman empire and the first days of the Turkish state

Accusations: As well as Kurdish groups, other protests outside the White House centered on the slaughter of Greeks and Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman empire and the first days of the Turkish state

Erdogan, on the other hand, believes Kurdish forces in Syria are an extension of a separatist Kurdish group that has been fighting inside Turkey since the 1980s. 

The United States has also been livid over Turkey's purchase of Russian missile defense systems.

Turkey shrugged off threats of U.S. sanctions and began receiving its first S-400 deliveries in July. In response, Washington removed Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program, in which Ankara was a manufacturer and buyer. But so far, the United States has not imposed any sanctions.

Trump also said they will be discussing Turkey’s purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system. Trump also added that the two sides would talk about a potential $100-billion trade deal. 

Turkey's S-400 purchase infuriated the U.S. Congress. The House of Representatives last month passed a sanctions package to punish Turkey over its Syria operation while key members of the Senate, such as Trump ally Republican Lindsey Graham, have vowed to advance it if Ankara endangers Kurds.

The House also voted last month in favor of a non-binding resolution recognizing the killings of 1.5 million Armenians a century ago as a genocide, a symbolic but historic vote denounced by Turkey. 

Donald Trump boasts he and Turkish strongman Erdogan 'have been friends for a long time'

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