KURDISH and Italian protesters clashed with police yesterday as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met the Pope in the Vatican to discuss the status of Jerusalem, human rights and refugees.

Officers in riot gear blocked around 150 protesters near Rome’s Tiber River as Edrogan paid the first Vatican visit by a Turkish head of state in 59 years.

One protester suffered a bloody gash on his head in the scuffle. Police said another was detained.

Turkey last month launched a military offensive in a Kurdish-held enclave in Syria. The Turkish government said the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia there is a terrorist organisation and an extension of Kurdish insurgents fighting within Turkey.

Both the Turkish and Vatican sides described the private talks as cordial. Pope Francis and Erdogan have made plain their concern over the Trump administration’s decision two months ago to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Erdogan said he and the Pope had already spoken by telephone about the Jerusalem issue and said both of them favoured working to maintain the status quo for the city considered holy by three religions.

A Vatican communique made no mention of the widespread international criticism of Turkey’s human rights record, including the arrests and firings of tens of thousands of Turkish citizens after a failed coup in 2016.