Turkey-US discuss possible Erdogan-Biden meeting

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Ankara and Washington have been discussing a potential meeting between US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan later this month, a senior Turkish official told Reuters on Friday.

Turkey-Russia relations, US weapons, and conflicts in Ukraine and Syria will be on the agenda according to the senior official.

Erdoğan is expected to visit Washington in late September according to the official. The Turkish President told journalists on the presidential plane on Thursday following his Balkan tour that he might discuss the recent tensions between Turkey and Greece with Biden if the two leaders could meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly being held in New York later this month.

Later, Erdoğan said that he aimed to discuss the current situation in northeast Syria with the US President at the same meeting, when answering reporters’ questions after Friday prayers.

The two NATO allies’ relations have soured over the situation in north Syria as Ankara blames Washington for jeopardising its national security by providing military support to Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which formed the backbone of the US-led coalition created to drive the Islamic State (ISIS) from Syria.

Turkey claims that the YPG, the Kurdish wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), is the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’s Party (PKK), an armed group fighting for Kurdish rights since 1984. The SDF is the major armed force of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

“Unfortunately the United States continue to take wrong steps with regards to SDF,” Erdoğan said on Friday, accusing Washington of sending thousands of military equipment to Kurdish groups.

The senior official talking to Reuters also confirmed that the situation in Syria will be on the agenda of the planned meeting. “A new page can be opened in Syria now, and the United States needs to take steps in this context. Likewise, the YPG threat needs to be well evaluated. Some US officials are aware of this,” the official said.

Erdoğan and Biden last met on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Madrid in late June, during which Turkey reached an agreement with Sweden and Finland which ended Ankara’s block on the two Nordic countries’ NATO membership.

Following that meeting, Biden gave a green light for selling US F-16 jets to Turkey, saying that he was confident that the congressional approval needed for the sale can be obtained.

Turkey requested to buy 40 new F-16 jets and 79 upgrade kits for its existing fleet after the United States removed Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter programme over Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defence systems.

The US House of Representatives in mid-July voted for a measure that prohibited the US President from selling or transferring the fighter jets or kits to Turkey, unless the President can prove that Turkey has “not violated the sovereignty of Greece” in the last 120 days.

The measure was voted on in the midst of rising tensions between Turkey and Greece with Athens repeatedly accusing Ankara of provocative actions against its warplanes.

On 28 August, the Turkish Defence Ministry blamed Greece for harassing Turkish jets with Russian S-300 missile systems stationed on the island of Crete.

“Have you heard something about Greece’s S-300 from those who keep talking about our S-400 incident,” Erdoğan asked journalists on his way back from Balkan countries.

“It is not only the United States that sells them,” Star newspaper quoted the Turkish President as saying later on Friday in relation to F-16 jets. “The United Kingdom also sells them, France also, and Russia. It is possible to get them everywhere. There are people who give us signals for this,” Erdoğan added.

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