Biden, Erdogan Reportedly Agree to Set Up Mechanism to Improve Ties After Narrowly Averting New Spat

© Photo : Twitter / @trpresidencyTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Joe Biden meet on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Rome, Saturday 31 October, 2021.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Joe Biden meet on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Rome, Saturday 31 October, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 31.10.2021
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Turkish-US ties have been strained by issues ranging from Ankara's decision to purchase a Russian-made air defence system, to the lengthy detention of a Turkish rights activist. On Saturday, a US official told reporters that President Biden would convey to President Erdogan the need to avoid "precipitous action" that could damage relations further.
US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have agreed to establish a mechanism to strengthen and improve bilateral ties between the NATO allies, Turkey's Anadolu Agency has reported.
The leaders held talks Sunday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome, where they were said to have discussed a range of issues, including trade, climate change, and the strategic partnership between the two countries and within NATO.
The meeting was said to have lasted for an hour and ten minutes, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also present.
The White House issued a readout summary of the conversation, indicating that "President Biden underscored his desire to maintain constructive relations, expand areas of cooperation, and manage our disagreements effectively."

"[Biden] expressed appreciation for Turkey's nearly two decades of contributions to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The leaders discussed the political process in Syria, the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Afghans in need, elections in Libya, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, and diplomatic efforts in the South Caucasus," the readout added.

Turkey has been involved in all of the aforementioned conflicts, joining the US and other NATO states in the 19+ year war and occupation of Afghanistan, occupying areas of northern Syria, providing diplomatic and military support to the Tripoli-based government during Libya's civil war, engaging in a diplomatic spat with Greece and Egypt involving the use of warships and military aircraft in the Med, and providing military support to Azerbaijan in last year's war in Nagorno-Karabakh between Baku and Armenian militias in the breakaway region.

The White House readout noted that Biden had "reaffirmed" Washington's defence partnership with Ankara, and Turkey's "importance as a NATO ally," but also voiced "US concerns over Turkey's possession of the Russian S-400 missile system," and "emphasised the importance of strong democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and the rule of law for peace and prosperity."

An unnamed Turkish official said the talks between Erdogan and Biden took place in a "very positive" atmosphere.

Strained Ties

Sunday's meeting comes after the two countries narrowly avoided sparking off a new crisis in relations after Erdogan threatened to boot out ten foreign diplomats - including the US ambassador, after they demanded the release of Turkish businessman and activist Osman Kavala, who has been under arrest and facing trial for most of the past four years on charges of fomenting unrest and related to the 2016 Turkish coup attempt.
On Monday, Erdogan announced that the spat over the ambassadors had been "resolved" after the affected countries' embassies promised not to interfere in the Turkish legal system's proceedings.
On Saturday, an unnamed US official told reporters that Biden would warn his Turkish counterpart at their Sunday meeting not to take any more steps like those related to the Kavala incident that might further damage ties between the allies.
US demands for Kavala's release are the latest chapter in a years' long saga of deteriorating ties between Ankara and Washington. The two countries have a violent difference of opinion on the conflict in Syria, with the US backing Kurdish-led forces and Turkey launching military operations to try to quash these forces, which it dubs 'terrorists'. Tensions have been exacerbated by Turkey's purchase of Russia's S-400 air defence system in 2017, which led Washington to boot Ankara out of the F-35 programme, and to sanction the Turkish defence sector.
Turkey has recently made a request to purchase F-16s from the US. However, a group of lawmakers in Congress have called on Biden to block the sale, suggesting in a letter that the US "cannot afford to compromise our national security by sending US-manufactured aircraft to a treaty ally which continues to behave like an adversary."
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