A Live Fact Check of Donald Trump's White House Meeting With Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan

U.S. President Donald Trump met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House Tuesday amid strained relations over the renewed violence in northeastern Syria that followed an assault led by Ankara and the repositioning of U.S. troops.

Trump has touted his decision to avoid a fight between NATO ally Turkey and the Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, whose Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) were considered a terrorist organization by Ankara due to alleged links to the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). As the U.S. military presence was repositioned to focus on maintaining control of eastern oil fields, the Trump administration arranged a ceasefire with Erdogan, essentially establishing a limited "safe zone" free of YPG presence.

As Trump discusses this deal, which was seen as controversial by critics at home, Newsweek is evaluating the president's claims made to the news media before the talks and after Trump and Erdogan emerge from their meeting for a joint news conference scheduled for later Wednesday afternoon.

Claim: While sitting alongside Erdogan before their talks, Trump told reporters Wednesday that "the border is holding very well, the ceasefire is holding very well."

turkey, erdogan, white, house, meeting
President Donald Trump meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Oval Office of the White House on November 13 in Washington. The two leaders will participate in an East Room joint news conference later in the day. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Not True: Newsweek has evaluated this claim as not true because of the multiple reports of fighting between Turkish troops and allied Syrian insurgents on one side and the Syrian Democratic Forces and Syrian military on the other. While the U.S.-brokered deal was followed by a Turkish-Russian agreement involving a total YPG border pullout and joint Turkish-Russia and Syrian-Russian patrols, Trump has called his own deal with Erdogan "permanent."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based monitor with ties to Syria's exiled opposition, reported Wednesday on alleged violations committed by Turkey-backed Syrian rebels against citizens in cities such as Ras al-Ayn.

The Syrian Democratic Forces issued a press release Wednesday arguing that "the invading Turkish army and its terrorist factions continue their attacks on northeastern Syria, despite the ceasefire agreements of October 17, using various types of weapons to bomb villages populated with civilians, trying to occupy new areas." SDF commander Mazloum Abdi then tweeted that "During Erdogan-@realDonaldTrump meeting, Turkish forces launched fierce attacks on predominantly Christian town of Til Temir, causing massive displacement of the residents, in clear violation of the cease-fire agreement."

The Turkish Defense Ministry tweeted Wednesday that "The PKK / YPG terrorists who continue their harassment and attacks against Operation Peace Spring are given the necessary retaliation within the scope of self-defense. No ethnic and religious groups, including Kurds, Arabs, Christians and Yazidis, are targeted and they will not be targeted."

The government-run Syrian Arab News Agency also reported on missile and mortar attacks by the Turkish military and allied Syrian insurgents in the countryside of Tal Tamr and the congregation of invading Turkish and partnered Syrian forces in Ras al-Ayn.

Claim: "Turkey has the second-largest armed forces in NATO, after the United States," Trump said during the joint press conference.

True: While numerically not a "very strong second" as Trump suggested, Turkey's 435,000 personnel directly follows the U.S., which has roughly 1.34 million troops. The third is France with up to 208,000 troops.

Turkey, which joined NATO in 1952, is believed to host up to 50 U.S. nuclear weapons at Incirlik Base. While relations have grown strained at times based on geopolitical differences, Washington and Ankara remain bound by the same defense pact that includes as many as 27 other countries from Canada and Europe.

Claim: "I think we can say we now have 100 percent of the caliphate," Trump told reporters.

Partially True: The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has lost just about all of what the Trump administration has previously referred to as its "standing caliphate"—referring to territory under direct ISIS control. The fall of ISIS came at the hands of two rival campaigns, however, one led by the U.S. and an international coalition alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces, and another waged by the Syrian government, Russia, Iran and allied militias.

Trump and his officials have also justified their decision to retain a military presence in eastern Syria by arguing it would be necessary to keep lucrative oil fields out of ISIS hands, a suggestion that the group was still capable of resurging. ISIS has also continued to claim occasional attacks in neighboring Iraq.

Claim: "I think the president said they have spent over $40 billion on the cost of [hosting Syrian refugees]," Trump said, citing Erdogan's earlier remarks.

Not Clear: After this comment, Trump looked for confirmation from his Turkish counterpart, who appeared to indicate that the real number was $13 billion or $30 billion. Audience members then offered their own interpretation, with Trump sticking with $40 billion.

The incident appeared to be a miscommunication, however, because Erdogan said earlier Wednesday that Turkey has "allocated more than $40 billion out of our budget." He has cited the same number on other occasions as well. The figure, however, has come under scrutiny because it has not been clearly defined in the country's budget, according to a recent report by Turkish economist Mustafa Sonmez writing for Al-Monitor.