Turkey and US entering ‘new era’ of relations, Erdogan says

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(AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Turkey and the United States are entering a “new era” in ties, after the NATO allies’ relationship deteriorated in recent years over an array of issues.

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting, Erdogan however, called for U.S. respect for Turkey’s sovereign rights — in an apparent reference to its decision to purchase a Russian weapons system — as well as support for Ankara’s fight against Syrian Kurdish groups it considers to be terrorists.

Erdogan made the comments days after his first face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden since he took office. The two men, who have known each other for years, met on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels.

Erdogan has been trying to repair frayed ties with the U.S. and other Western partners as his government grapples with an economic downturn made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We believe that we will resolve the problematic issues between us in time, based on our mutual sensitivities and expectations,” Erdogan said in a televised address. “We agreed that there is no issue that we cannot surmount and that on the contrary, the areas of cooperation are greater and more profitable.”

The longtime allies have a long list of disagreements, including U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria and Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 defense system — a procurement that angered Washington and resulted in Ankara being kicked out of the U.S.-led F-35 fighter aircraft production program, sanctions on senior Turkish defense industry officials, and bans on military export licenses.

Washington says the Russian system is a threat to NATO security and insists that sanctions cannot be lifted until Turkey gets rid of the system, which has cost the country $2.5 billion.

Ankara argues that the Syrian Kurdish fighters are inextricably linked to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.

Erdogan described his talks with Biden as comprehensive and productive and said the two agreed to meet again.

“We believe that we have opened the doors of a new era with the United States on a positive and constructive basis,” he said.

Erdogan said: “Turkey’s only demand is that its political and economic sovereign rights are respected and that support is given to the struggle it is carrying out against terror organizations inside and outside its borders.”

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