President Trump hosting Turkey's Erdogan as tensions simmer

WASHINGTON, May 16 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump was set to hold talks on Tuesday with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan amid tensions over the U.S. decision to arm Kurdish fighters in Syria that angered Ankara, a crucial partner in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State forces.

The meeting between Trump and Erdogan comes during an uproar in Washington over reports that the U.S. president disclosed sensitive information regarding Islamic State to senior Russian officials during a White House meeting last week.

Trump's approval of plans to supply the Kurdish YPG militia as it advances toward the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa in Syria cast a shadow over the talks between the leaders of NATO allies Turkey and the United States. U.S. officials disclosed the plans on May 9.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) is greeted by greets U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump (R) at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, left, speaks with U.S. President Donald Trump, during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, March 17, 2017. Merkel, who is running for a fourth term in Germanys election in September, plans to explain her view of the mutual advantages of free trade during her talks with Trump on Friday, according to German officials. Photographers: Pat Benic/Pool via Bloomberg
King Abdullah II of Jordan, left, looks towards U.S. President Donald Trump after shaking hands during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. The talks with the Jordanian monarch are expected to focus on other regional issues, including Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Egypt's president, during a meeting inside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, April 3, 2017. Trump�said Monday his buildup of the U.S. military would help El-Sisi�fight terrorism as the two met at the White House for their first summit of the Trump presidency. Photographer: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg
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Erdogan has pledged to use the White House meeting to try to get Trump to change course on the YPG. Ankara regards the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe.

The YPG, or People's Protection Units, effectively serves as the military of the autonomous Kurdish-led regions that emerged in northern Syria with the retreat of state authority in 2011 that accompanied the outbreak of civil war.

The United States sees the YPG as distinct from the PKK and as a valuable partner in the fight against Islamic State.

Trump, who took office in January, has sought to reach out to Erdogan, and was criticized by some in the United States for congratulating the Turkish president on his contested win in a referendum on constitutional changes that gave him sweeping new powers.

With the two leaders at odds on treatment of the Kurdish fighters and other issues, the White House meeting is unlikely to produce significant results, said Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.

"The best thing to be hoped for from this is that they come out saying that they are both determined to work on the relationship and that Turkish concerns are being taken into account," said Aliriza, who described the move to arm the YPG as an earthquake in U.S.-Turkish relations.

The visit is further complicated by Turkey's calls for the United States to take steps to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan blames Gulen supporters for a failed coup attempt last July and has conducted a crackdown on them, drawing criticism from Washington. Gulen has denied involvement in the coup and remains in the United States.

The Turkish government has also raised concerns about a U.S. criminal case against Reza Zarrab, a dual Turkish-Iranian national, arrested last year and charged with helping Iran process millions of dollar in transactions that violated U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

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Erdogan election victory
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate in Istanbul April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate in Istanbul April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate in Istanbul April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir
A supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a support rally at the AK party headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey, April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate in Istanbul, Turkey, April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate in Istanbul April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan wave national flags in Istanbul, Turkey, April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - APRIL 16 : (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'TURKISH PRESIDENCY / YASIN BULBUL / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gives a speech during a press conference as the unofficial preliminary results of Turkeys constitutional referendum show 'Yes' votes ahead of 'No' votes, at Turkish Presidency's Huber Mansion in Istanbul, Turkey on April 16, 2017. Turkish people voted on the proposed change to a presidential system to replace the parliamentary democracy, with 18 articles proposed to be amended in the constitution. (Photo by Turkish Presidency / Yasin Bulbul/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Supporters of the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) party wave Turkish flags outside the party's headquarters in Ankara, on April 16, 2017. Turkey's prime minister declared victory for the 'Yes' camp in April 16's referendum on expanding the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying the country had opened a 'new page' in its democracy. 'The presidential system, according to unofficial results, has been confirmed with a 'Yes' vote,' Binali Yildirim told flag-waving supporters from the balcony of the headquarters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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