US President Joe Biden told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday that their countries must deal better with disagreements after the partnership between NATO allies was put to the test by Turkey’s threat to no longer recognize the US envoy and his purchase of a Russian missile defense system.
“We plan to have a good conversation,” Biden said as executives appeared before reporters before nearly an hour of closed-door discussions. The president did not respond to questions on whether Turkey has come too close to Russia or on human rights.
At the meeting, Biden reaffirmed Turkey’s importance as a NATO ally as well as its defense partnership with the United States, but expressed to Erdogan his concerns about owning the system. Russian S-400 missiles, the White House said in a statement.
The Turkish president said he was open to purchasing a second Russian missile system, despite controversy over the 2017 agreement to acquire the Russian-made system.
Turkey’s role as a NATO ally has come under scrutiny in recent weeks.
Erdogan at a rally on October 23 said that 10 foreign ambassadors who called for the release of a jailed philanthropist should be declared persona non grata. The envoys, including representatives from the United States, France and Germany, had previously issued a statement aimed at resolving the case of Osman Kavala, a businessman and philanthropist imprisoned since 2017 when he was not convicted of a crime.
Erdogan did not follow through on the threat, but it reflected growing tensions with the United States
“I honestly cannot say that there is a healthy process in Turkish-American relations,” Erdogan said in September, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
Erdogan’s office said in a statement that the meeting was held in a “positive atmosphere” in which the leaders expressed a desire to “further strengthen and improve relations between Turkey and the United States and agreed to establish a common mechanism accordingly “.
The statement also said there was “satisfaction with the mutual action taken on climate change”.
Turkey has been kicked out of a US program to buy F-35 fighter jets and defense officials have been sanctioned after buying the Russian-made S-400 system. The United States strongly opposes the use of Russian systems within the NATO alliance and says it poses a threat to the F-35s.
Turkey maintains that the S-400s could be used independently without being integrated into NATO systems and therefore pose no risk.
Turkey is also interested in purchasing American-made F-16 fighter jets, but Biden has been “very clear” with Erdogan that there is a process these sales must follow, a senior official said. the Biden administration to reporters after the meeting, which took place as world leaders are in Rome for the Group of 20 nations summit. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private interviews.
Erdogan previously said his government was seeking to recoup a $ 1.4 billion payment the country made prior to its expulsion from the F-35 program and that the United States had offered to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey to offset the payment. .
In comments to reporters after the meeting, Erdogan spoke optimistically about reaching an agreement with the United States on F-16 sales.
â€œOur defense ministers are talking,â€ Erdogan said. “I saw Mr. Biden’s positive approach.”
The White House statement said Biden and Erdogan also discussed the political process in Syria, humanitarian aid to Afghans, elections in Libya, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and diplomatic efforts in the South Caucasus.
And Biden voiced his concerns about human rights and the rule of law in Turkey, and called on countries to cooperate more and deal effectively with “disagreements,” the White House said.
Biden and Erdogan last met in June at a NATO summit where they discussed the possibility that Turkey could secure and operate the Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan. But those plans evaporated when the Taliban quickly took control of Afghanistan amid the departure of the US military.