The specter of a U.S.-Turkish clash in Syria loomed over Thursday’s meeting between the top American diplomat and Turkey’s leader as the two NATO allies scrambled to ease some of their worst tensions in years.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is fuming over U.S. assistance to Kurdish fighters near his country’s border. The talks with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were to focus on Washington’s plan to continue providing the Kurdish militants assistance and Turkey’s military operations in Kurdish areas of northern Syria.

The discussions were expected to cover several proposals for improving cooperation along the border area. It’s been a flashpoint over the years for Turkish-Kurdish tensions, al-Qaida and Islamic State fighters traveling back and forth, and incidents involving major powers including Russia.

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