Biden to tell Erdogan that US and Turkey must avoid crises

Sunday 31 Oct 2021

President Joe Biden plans to tell Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a Sunday morning meeting at the Group of 20 summit that the two nations need to find ways to avoid crises with each other, as the alliance has been tested recently by a threat to no longer recognize the US envoy and Turkey's purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

Biden/ Erdogan in G-20 summit
President Joe Biden meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the G20 leaders summit, Sunday, in Rome. AP

``We're planning to have a good conversation,'' Biden said as the two leaders stood together before their meeting. The president did not answer questions about human rights and whether Turkey has grown too close to Russia.

The two leaders also plan to discuss regional issues involving Syria and Libya, a US senior administration official said Saturday. The official insisted on anonymity to discuss the upcoming conversation between Biden and Erdogan.

Turkey's role as a NATO ally has come under sharp scrutiny in recent weeks. Erdogan at an Oct. 23 rally said that 10 foreign ambassadors who called for the release of a jailed philanthropist should be declared persona non grata. The envoys, including the US, French and German representatives, had previously issued a statement seeking to resolve the case of Osman Kavala, a businessman and philanthropist held in prison since 2017 despite not having been convicted of a crime.

Erdogan did not follow through on the threat. But it reflected the rising tensions with the United States.

``I cannot honestly say that there is a healthy process in Turkish-American relations,'' state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Erdogan as saying in September.

The two leaders didn't meet for bilateral talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Since Biden became president, they have met only in June at a NATO summit where they discussed the possibility of Turkey securing and operating the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. But those plans evaporated as the Taliban the swiftly took control of Afghanistan amid the US military departure.

The Turkish president has said he's open to buying a second Russian missile system, despite the controversy generated by his 2017 deal to acquire the Russian-made S-400 system.

In a September interview with CBS News, Erdogan said that Turkey wasn't given the option to buy American-made Patriot missiles. He also said the US hadn't delivered F-35 stealth jets despite a payment of $1.4 billion.

Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 program and defense officials were sanctioned after it bought the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system. The US strongly objects to the use of Russian systems within NATO and says it poses a threat to the F-35s. Turkey maintains the S-400s could be used independently without being integrated into NATO systems and therefore pose no risk.

There are additional sources of strain for the two countries, including Turkey's human rights record; US support for Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Turkey considers terrorists; and the continued US residency of a Muslim cleric accused of plotting the failed coup attempt against Erdogan's government in 2016.

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