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Despite tensions over Syria, Trump offers Erdogan a warm welcome

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Washington Wednesday, prompting protests by Kurdish Americans and others outside the White House. Erdogan received a warm welcome from President Trump, but some Republicans in the Senate expressed concern about the friendly treatment only weeks after the Turkish military aggression in Syria that both parties in Congress decried. Amna Nawaz reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: The tense alliance between the U.S. and Turkey was on display in Washington. Just last month, the president of Turkey brushed aside U.S. objections and invaded part of Syria.

    Today, he was welcomed at the White House.

    Amna Nawaz has our report.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    With impeachment hearings dominating the Capitol, a separate drama played out at the White House. Outside, Kurdish Americans and others protested the visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    But, inside, President Trump gave his guest a warm reception, despite deep and ongoing tensions, most recently over Syria.

  • President Donald Trump:

    The president and I have been — we have been very good friends. We have been friends for a long time.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That overlooks serious disagreements between the longtime allies. Last month, after speaking with Erdogan, Mr. Trump announced a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Northeastern Syria.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Turkey, Syria, let them take care of it. Let them take care of it. We want to bring our troops back home.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That cleared the way for a Turkish military offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria. They had helped the U.S. battle ISIS, but Erdogan considers them terrorists, in league with Kurdish separatists inside Turkey.

    Mr. Trump warned Erdogan repeatedly to restrain his operation, even writing him a blunt letter, telling him — quote — "Don't be a fool." Erdogan ignored him. But the two nations did reach an agreement, announced by Vice President Pence.

  • Mike Pence:

    Today, the United States and Turkey have agreed to a cease-fire in Syria.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    At the same time, Turkey, a NATO ally, turned to Russia, and now Turkish-Russian patrols are policing the Syrian border.

    This afternoon, Erdogan stood by his policy at a White House news conference.

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (through translator):

    We're just fighting terrorists, period. They don't have a nationality. If you don't fight back, then, tomorrow, you will have to pay a very hefty price.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The two leaders also spoke about Turkey sending captured Islamic State fighters back to their home countries, further straining ties with NATO partners.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I have spoken to Europe about it. I think they should help us with ISIS.

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (through translator):

    It's important foreign fighters should be accepted by countries of origin.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Also on the agenda today, Turkey purchasing Russian missile defense systems, and the U.S. canceling sales of F-35 stealth fighter jets to Ankara as a result.

    Mr. Trump said today — quote — "I expect we will work it out."

    The president also called in Republican senators to meet with Erdogan and voice their concerns.

    South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham criticized the president's withdrawal decision and has denounced Erdogan.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.:

    The purpose of this meeting is to have an American civics lesson for our friends in Turkey, and there is a pony in there somewhere, if we can find it.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Back at the Capitol, the top Republican in Congress expressed his worry, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

    So, I share my colleagues' uneasiness at seeing President Erdogan honored down at the White House.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    A bipartisan bill is now before the Senate imposing sanctions on Turkey over its assault on Syria. The House approved a similar measure last month.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

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