The Latest: GOP senators express concerns to Turkey’s leader

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (all times local):

3 p.m.

Republican lawmakers have pressed Turkey’s president about why Turkey bought a Russian missile system despite Turkey’s membership in NATO.

Senators who gathered at the White House with President Donald Trump also expressed concerns about U.S.-backed Kurdish forces that Turkey is battling in neighboring Syria.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH’-jehp TY’-ihp UR’-doh-wahn) that U.S. lawmakers have two main concerns. One is the S-400 air defense system that Turkey bought from Moscow. And the second is stopping Turkey from going after the Kurds.

Trump called reporters into his meeting with Erdogan at the same time that Washington was focused on impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill. Trump said earlier that he was too busy to watch the televised hearings.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott said he wants to see Turkey moving closer to the U.S. and not Russia.

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1:50 p.m.

Dozens of Kurds and their supporters are waving Kurdish and American flags outside the White House to protest President Donald Trump’s meeting with Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH’-jehp TY’-ihp UR’-doh-wahn).

The protesters have gathered in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, and chanted slogans demanding that Turkey-backed forces withdraw from northern Syria.

Turkey launched an offensive south into neighboring Syria early last month to battle Kurdish forces allied with the United States in the fight against Islamic State militants.

Erdogan sees Kurdish forces in Syria as an extension of a separatist Kurdish group that’s been fighting inside Turkey since the 1980s.

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12:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the U.S. and Turkey are poised to expand trade between the two countries.

Trump is set to meet later Wednesday in the Oval Office with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH’-jehp TY’-ihp UR’-doh-wahn). Trump says he thinks that trade between the two NATO allies can quickly increase to about $100 billion.

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

But right now, relations between the two countries are at their lowest point in decades. Turkey’s decision to buy a Russian air defense system has angered the U.S. and other NATO allies.

Trump says the meeting will also cover Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria to fight Kurdish forces that have been U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.

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12:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump is to meet with Turkey’s president at a time when relations between the two NATO allies are at their lowest point in decades.

Turkey has rebuffed Washington and has warmed ties with Russia, even buying a Russian air defense system, even though Turkey is a NATO member. Turkey also is facing a backlash over attacks on Kurdish civilians during Turkey’s incursion into Syria.

Some in Congress have denounced President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH’-jehp TY’-ihp UR’-doh-wahn) for what they say are his repressive tactics at home and they say he should never have been invited to the White House.

Trump says Turkey has been a critical U.S. ally for decades, and he cites the strong economic upside to the relationship. He says the two countries have enough in common to overcome their differences.

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