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Biden and Erdogan express optimism about US-Turkish ties after meeting

Turkish and American leaders share few details about their face-to-face meeting, but say talks were 'positive' and 'fruitful'
Turkey's Erdogan fist bumps Biden during Nato summit in Brussels, 14 June (Reuters)
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Washington

US President Joe Biden and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan described their meeting on the sidelines of a Nato summit in Brussels on Monday as "positive" and confirmed their willingness to restore strained ties and increase cooperation.

Both leaders lauded the bilateral talks but did not announce any major breakthroughs in the relationship, which has been fractured in recent years over Russian weapons, Syria, Libya and other issues.

"There is a strong will for the start of a new era in all areas, based on mutual respect and interest," Erdogan told reporters on Wednesday, adding that the meeting was "fruitful and sincere".

"There is no problem in Turkey-US relations that cannot be solved."

Biden, whose post-meeting remarks focused on the Nato alliance and countering Russia, echoed that message.

"We had a positive and productive meeting - much of it one-on-one," he said. "We had detailed discussions about how to proceed on a number of issues. Our two countries have big agendas. Our teams are going to continue our discussions, and I'm confident we'll make real progress."   

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that Biden and Erdogan would discuss "a number of important regional issues, from Syria to Libya, to the eastern Mediterranean".

US-Turkey tensions

Turkish-American relations have been plagued with tensions in recent years. Washington has angered Ankara with its military support for Kurdish groups in Syria that Turkey views as a threat to its national security.

Late last year, the US imposed sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system. Turkey had also been ejected from the Nato-led F-35 programme to develop advanced fighter jets.

Earlier this year, Turkey greeted the election of US President Joe Biden with some suspicion, fearing a hardening of the American stance towards Turkey on several issues.

In April, the Biden administration irked Ankara when it recognised the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces during World War II as genocide

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Washington also denounced Erdogan personally last month and accused him of antisemitism over his criticism of Israel's latest offensive on Gaza. 

Erdogan said the Armenian issue was not discussed during Monday's meeting. The Turkish leader, however, renewed a call for an end to US support for the Syrian Kurdish fighters, who Ankara argues are inextricably linked to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.

"I openly stated that the support given to the (Syrian Kurdish fighters) should be ended," Erdogan said.

The Turkish president also signalled that the two leaders failed to find a way to overcome differences over Turkey's purchase of the S-400 advanced Russian missile defence systems which Washington says is a threat to Nato.

"At a meeting held in this location, it is not possible for the S-400s not to be brought up," Erdogan said during the press conference. "Whatever our previous thoughts were on the S-400s, I conveyed those same thoughts to President Biden."

Erdogan has so far resisted American calls to nix the S-400 deal with Russia.

'Turkey is a reliable country'

The Turkish president had expressed a willingness to work with the Biden administration and improve relations with Washington before Monday's meeting.

On Sunday, he offered to play a role to maintain security in Afghanistan under the Nato banner after the US withdrawal that is expected to be finalised by September. 

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"America is preparing to leave Afghanistan soon and from the moment they leave, the only reliable country to maintain the process over there is obviously Turkey," Erdogan said on Sunday.

After meeting with Biden, Erdogan suggested that American assistance would be required for Turkish troops potentially remaining in Afghanistan.

"If Turkey is not asked to leave Afghanistan, the US support on the diplomatic, logistical and financial front is very important," he said.

Earlier on Monday, Erdogan - who is trying to mend relations with Turkey's other western partners - said that a revival of dialogue with fellow Nato member Greece to resolve long-standing disputes will serve "stability and prosperity" in the region.

Last year, a dispute over boundaries and rights to natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean flared anew after Ankara sent research vessels into waters where Greece asserts jurisdiction.

Erdogan said he and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis agreed to call each other over a direct line "without involving others."