Turkey reaches out to US for first time since Biden entered White House

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Turkey and the United States agreed Tuesday to work on establishing “strong” bilateral relations, during the first contacts between Ankara and US President Joe Biden’s administration, Turkey’s Anadolu state news agency said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has still not spoken by phone with Biden, despite reportedly reaching out to the new White House chief, in what analysts interpret as a chill in the two leader’s early relations.

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Erdogan enjoyed a personal friendship with former US president Donald Trump, whom he could call directly to discuss hot spots such as Syria and to press Washington not to place various sanctions on Ankara.

Anadolu said Erdogan’s spokesman and adviser Ibrahim Kalin spoke to US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, marking the first official contact between Ankara and the Biden team.

Kalin and Sullivan agree to “establish strong, durable and constructive relations,” the Anadolu report said.

They touched on conflicts in Syria, Libya, Turkey’s dispute with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus, Afghanistan, and Azerbaijan’s victorious war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which Turkey backed.

Turkey’s various regional campaigns pose an early test for Biden, most immediately because of its purchase of a Russian missile defense system that threatens NATO defenses.

Trump’s team imposed relatively light sanctions on Turkey for the purchase in December focused on its military procurement agency.

Erdogan wants these sanctions lifted, something which US officials insist is only possible if the Russia system is decommissioned.

Instead, Turkey is discussing the delivery of a second battery of the Russian S-400 missiles, triggering calls in Congress for even tougher sanctions.

Washington has already suspended Turkey from the F-35 program, barring it from buying the advanced jets and from making any of its parts.

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