Ankara and Washington need to look for ways to leave troubles behind and move on, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Sunday during a press conference in Istanbul ahead of his NATO summit visit to Brussels.
Regarding his planned face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, Erdoğan said that a wide range of issues, including bilateral ties, will be discussed with Biden on the sidelines of the NATO summit.
Underlining that Ankara and Washington will look for ways to set aside tension, he added: "There have been many rumors inside and out, we need to leave them behind and talk about what we can do and what we will do."
Turkey will once again underline the importance of the alliance with its allies during the NATO summit, Erdoğan also said and noted that the F-35 program and the U.S. Patriot defense systems will be also discussed during the meeting with Biden.
"Although Turkey has fulfilled promises regarding F-35s, unfortunately, the U.S. has not fulfilled promises," he said.
Ties between NATO allies Turkey and the U.S. were badly strained in 2019 over Ankara’s acquisition of the advanced S-400 Russian air defense system, prompting Washington to remove Turkey from its F-35 Lightning II jet program.
The U.S. argued that the system was incompatible with NATO systems and could potentially be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified information on the F-35 jets. Turkey, however, insists that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
Washington in December decided to impose sanctions on Turkey over the purchase. It marked the first time a NATO member state has been sanctioned for buying Russian arms.
Ankara has repeatedly stressed it was the U.S.' refusal to sell its Patriot missile systems that led the country to seek other sellers, adding that Russia had offered a better deal, including technology transfers. Turkey even proposed setting up a commission with the U.S. to clarify any technical issues.
The president will also bring up Turkey's opposition to Biden's recognition of the 1915 events as "genocide" during the meeting, underlining that Ankara expects concrete steps from Washington to compensate.
Turkey's position on the events of 1915 is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.
Turkey objects to the presentation of these incidents as "genocide," describing them as a tragedy in which both sides suffered casualties.
Erdoğan also said that Turkey not only protects its borders but also NATO's, adding that Ankara not only fights terrorism but also faces intense pressure of irregular migration.
Commenting on a potential Turkish role in Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal, Erdoğan said Turkey is the only country that can be trusted to continue the process after the withdrawal.
A positive agenda is prioritized for the upcoming meeting between Erdoğan and Biden, with potential areas of cooperation and opportunities expected to dominate talks in addition to discussions about ongoing disagreements. Biden and Erdoğan are scheduled to meet and discuss a range of issues including Syria, Afghanistan, the Eastern Mediterranean and the S-400s issue on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels on Monday. The meeting comes against the backdrop of a fair amount of tension between the two countries. Although NATO allies Turkey and the U.S. have voiced interest in resetting recently strained ties, disagreements on several points remain, and sources have pointed out that political cooperation is the key to progress.
Ankara and Washington disagree on a number of issues that have further strained bilateral ties in recent years, from Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems to the U.S. support to the PKK terrorist group's Syrian branch, the YPG terrorist group, as well as the U.S. refusal to extradite Fetullah Gülen, leader of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and some other legal matters.
The greatest challenge that Turkey-U.S. relations face is not the problem of Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system but rather Washington’s support for the PKK terrorist organization’s Syrian wing, the YPG, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stated recently.
The two NATO allies also have differing views on some regional issues, such as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as well as Ankara's hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. On the other hand, the two leaders are expected to discuss potential cooperation areas and opportunities in regional issues, especially in Libya, Afghanistan and northwestern Syria. There are areas of common ground including efforts to reach a political solution in Libya and opposition to the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. The two countries can also play a major role in the reconstruction of Libya, while both defend the continuation of cross-border aid to northwestern Syria despite Russia’s opposition.
Turkey is approaching the upcoming meeting between Erdoğan and Biden with a positive agenda, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last week, adding that Ankara has received similar optimistic signals from Washington. Çavuşoğlu noted that the U.S. wants to cooperate with Turkey not only on the issues of Libya and Syria, but also in many areas from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea and Caucasus regions.
Biden is also looking forward to reviewing the "full breadth" of Ankara-Washington ties, as he and Erdoğan are scheduled to meet and discuss Syria, Afghanistan and other regional issues, the U.S.' national security advisor said last week, underlining that the two leaders will also look at the "significant differences" between the two NATO allies.
Erdoğan recently said that he believes his first in-person meeting with Biden will mark the beginning of a new era.
“I believe that our meeting with Mr. Biden at the NATO summit will be the harbinger of a new era,” Erdoğan said in a televised address while holding a roundtable call with a group of executives from large U.S. companies.
“From Syria to Libya, and from fighting against terrorism to energy, and from trade to investments, we have serious potential for cooperation with the U.S.,” the Turkish president said.
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