23:59 GMT +306 December 2019
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    Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and U.S President Donald Trump gesture during the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019

    Ties With Russia, Sale of F-35 and Ops in Syria: Key Possible Topics for Trump-Erdogan Talks

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    The two presidents' meeting comes as ties between the US and Turkey remain strained over the latter's acquisition of Russian S-400 air defence systems and offensive in Syria against America’s allies, the Kurds.

    US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan are meeting at the White House on 13 November to discuss the two states' ties, which have recently been spoiled by major disagreements on a number of topics. Despite the US taking a harsh stance towards Turkey, imposing sanctions over its most recent actions in Syria, some analysts predict that Trump might discuss some easing of pressure with Erdogan during these talks.

    What issues might the two presidents discuss and what concessions might be made to improve the two countries strained relations? Here are some of the topics that the presidents could possibly address:

    Purchase of S-400s and Sale of F-35s

    Trump might take a "businessman's approach" to the issue that has been poisoning the two states' relations since December 2017 – Ankara's purchase of modern Russian S-400 air defence systems, Ali Demirdas, analyst at the University of South Carolina believes.

    The US Congress earlier banned Turkey from buying American F-35 jets and threatened to impose sanctions over its acquisition of Russian air defence systems. But, according to Demirdas, POTUS might offer Turkey a way back into the F-35 programme without ditching the S-400s, believing that it would be better for the US to actually sell the fighter jets worth over 100 million dollars each, rather than denying Ankara the opportunity to buy them.

     F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
    F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter

    The analyst thinks Trump won't take any measures regarding this until after next year’s election. In case of success in November 2020, he will move forward with the sale of F-35 to Turkey, although the US Congress is likely to stand in his way, Demirdas added.

    Limiting Ties With Russia, Preserving Them With US

    During the upcoming meeting with Erdogan, the US president is likely to try to prevent a further rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow, Matthew Hoh, senior fellow at the US Centre for International Policy said.

    At the same time, POTUS will try to prevent Turkey from sailing too far away from the US as that would be a major blow to American geopolitical presence in the Middle East, Demirdas in turn opined. He added that if Washington keeps piling up the pressure on Ankara, the latter might even reconsider keeping a US military contingent on its territory – something that in his opinion the US can't allow.

    Turkish soldiers are seen in the border town of Tal Abyad, Syria, in this undated handout photo released by Turkish Defence Ministry on October 17, 2019
    © REUTERS / TURKISH DEFENCE MINISTRY
    Turkish soldiers are seen in the border town of Tal Abyad, Syria, in this undated handout photo released by Turkish Defence Ministry on October 17, 2019

    Notably, The Washington Post reported recently, citing unnamed sources, that during the 13 November talks, Trump will offer Ankara a "workaround" to avoid the sanctions that Washington promised to impose on Ankara for its purchase of Russian S-400 air defence systems.

    Operation "Peace Spring" in Syria

    One of the major points for the Trump-Erdogan talks will be a Turkish military operation in Syria, Hoh indicated. He specifically suggested that POTUS could discuss with Ankara the US plans to exercise control over the oil-rich parts of Syria and try to convince Turkey not to object to these plans.

    Demirdas opined that Trump is likely to silently approve of the Turkish operation in Syria against the Kurdish YPG, which, as Ankara believes, is a branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, deemed a terrorist organisation in Turkey. The analyst noted that his only precondition for this approval will be for Turkish forces to stay within a designated "safe zone".

    Investigation into Halkbank and Gullen's Extradition

    The two presidents could also discuss an ongoing US investigation into Turkey’s Halkbank, which Washington suspects of aiding Iran in selling oil and avoiding American sanctions. US prosecutors charged the bank over alleged misconduct on 15 October, but Erdogan, who called the accusations "ugly" and "disgusting", vowed to discuss the issue with Trump among other things on 13 November.

    Another point of interest for the Turkish president is the long-sought extradition of Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish Islamic scholar accused of orchestrating a failed coup against Erdogan in 2016. Demirdas, however, noted that Trump is unlikely to cede to Turkey's demands to hand over the politician, who has long criticised Erdogan and his government.

    Related:

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    US House Vote on Sanctions Highlights White House-Congress Distance Over Turkey - Scholar
    Turkey Mulls Purchase of Russian Su-35 Jets Despite Potential US Reaction - Official
    Turkey Slams US Claims About Syrian Oil Fields as Contradiction of International Law
    US Congress Threatens to Sanction Turkey Unless Ankara Abandons S-400 - White House
    Tags:
    F-35, Russia, Syria, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Donald Trump, Turkey, US
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