Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after his first meeting with US counterpart Joe Biden on Monday that they have no problems that cannot be solved, even while he gave no indication of progress on the biggest stalemate, Ankara’s purchase of Russian missiles.
At a press conference on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, Erdogan called the talks “productive and sincere” and he emphasized his long years of friendship with the US leader.
The discussion - for which Erdogan waited five months after Biden’s inauguration - stressed the need for better dialogue, set a positive tone for the future and covered cooperation in areas such as Syria, Erdogan said.
“We see that there is a strong will to start an efficient cooperation period based on mutual respect in every area,” he said.
“We think that there are no problems in Turkey-US ties that don’t have a solution and that, to the contrary, our areas of cooperation outweigh our problems and look richer.”
US-Turkey ties are clouded by an array of disputes including US support for Syrian Kurdish fighters deemed terrorists by Turkey, and the Biden administration’s more vocal criticism of Ankara’s human rights record.
The thorniest dispute is Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air defenses in 2019 that prompted Washington to impose targeted sanctions and to oust Ankara from an F-35 production program, including a Turkish order to buy jets.
“At a meeting held in this location, it is not possible for the S-400s not to be brought up,” Erdogan said. “Whatever our previous thoughts were on the S-400s, I conveyed those same thoughts to President Biden.”
Turkey’s lira slid nearly 1 percent as Erdogan spoke, after market expectations had risen in recent days for Biden and Erdogan to reach some sort of deal on the S-400s.
Erdogan, who had warm ties with former US President Donald Trump, said Biden told him he might come to Turkey.
As president, Biden has adopted a cooler tone than predecessor towards Erdogan. Biden quickly recognised the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide -- a position that angers Turkey -- and stepped up criticism of Turkey's human rights record.