NEW YORK — President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are meeting on the sidelines of an annual U.N. gathering.

At the start of their meeting Thursday in New York, Trump heaped praise on Erdogan, who has been criticized for a crackdown in Turkey following an attempted coup last year. Trump says Erdogan is a friend and that he’s “running a very difficult part of the world.”

Trump added that Erdogan is “involved very, very strongly and frankly he’s getting very high marks.”

As for U.S. relations with Turkey, Trump says the two countries are “the closest we’ve ever been.”

Erdogan spoke through a translator and referred to Trump as “my friend, Donald.” The Turkish president says they have “many issues” to discuss.