US Secretary Blinken presses Turkish FM on Russia, discuss conflicts in Syria, Libya

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday, urged Ankara not to retain Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, the US State Department said in a statement.

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“Secretary Blinken urged Turkey not to retain the Russian S-400 air defense system,” the statement said. Blinken also expressed concern over Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. The two also discussed shared interests in Syria and Afghanistan, exploratory talks between NATO Allies Turkey and Greece, democracy and human rights, it added.

Washington has long criticized NATO ally Turkey’s purchase of the advanced S-400 air defense system from rival Russia, arguing it threatens the alliance’s defenses.

Former US leader Donald Trump in December imposed sanctions on Ankara’s military procurement agency over the acquisition.

Turkey has also drawn widespread criticism for its decision, announced Saturday, to pull out of the Istanbul Convention, the latest victory for conservatives in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s nationalist party.

The administration of President Joe Biden is still formulating its overall policy on Turkey -- but insists that it sees the country as a key ally.

“It’s no secret that we have differences with Turkey,” Blinken said at the two-day NATO meeting on Tuesday.

“It’s also no secret that Turkey is a long-standing and valued ally, and one that I believe we have a strong interest in keeping anchored to NATO.”

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