Just hours after US and Turkish Presidents Donald Trump and Tajip Erdogan met in Washington DC, violent protests erupted outside of the Turkish embassy. During the clashes, nine people were injured and several protesters were arrested.
According to witnesses, the brawl erupted when the Turkish president’s security detail attacked protesters carrying the flag of the Kurdish PYD party outside the residence. A local NBC television affiliate reported Erdogan was inside the building at the time but it is unknown whether he had left it after fighting broke out.
Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said the altercation broke out between two groups but he didn’t elaborate on the circumstances. He said two people were arrested, including one who was charged with assaulting a police officer. The altercation came the same day that Erdogan met with President Donald Trump at the White House. The State Department declined to comment.
Each side accused the other of being the aggressors. One of the pro-Erdogan demonstrators told ABC television: “We weren’t doing anything wrong. We just celebrated our president.” Another one said: “One of the YPG supporters ran across, picked up a megaphone, and hit a Turkish citizen with it.| Demonstrators on the other side, meanwhile, blamed Erdogan’s supporters for the violence.
“All of the sudden they just ran towards us,” Yazidi Kurd demonstrator Lucy Usoyan said, adding that she was attacked by one of the pro-Erdogan supporters. “Someone was beating me in the head nonstop, and I thought, Okay, I’m on the ground already, what is the purpose to beat me?”‘
Earlier Trump and Erdogan had stood side by side at the White House and promised to strengthen strained ties despite the Turkish leader’s stern warning about Washington’s arming of a Kurdish militia. Trump hailed Erdogan as a key ally in the ‘fight against terrorism’, at a time of high tensions between Washington and Ankara.
At a White House meeting the Turkish president told Trump his country would not accept Syrian Kurdish fighters in the region – but stopped short of directly criticizing a US decision to arm them. In a press briefing, Trump made no mention of Erdogan’s domestic crackdown after a failed coup attempt last year, which was heavily criticized by former President Barack Obama.
Fresh from securing his grip on Turkey with a referendum to enhance his powers, Erdogan came to the Oval Office with complaints about US support for Kurdish fighters and what Ankara says is Washington’s harboring of the mastermind of a failed coup.
But both leaders also tried to put a brave face on their differences and to renew a key alliance between NATO’s leading power and its biggest Muslim member, partners in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.