Biden and Erdogan optimistic about ties but reveal no breakthrough

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appeared optimistic after their first face-to-face talks on Monday, although they did not announce major breakthroughs in relations between the two allies, at odds on Russian arms, Syria, Libya and other issues.

“We had a positive and productive meeting, largely one-on-one,” Biden said at a press conference after their meeting in Brussels.

“Our teams will continue our discussions and I am convinced that we will make real progress with Turkey and the United States,” he added.

Erdogan called his talks with Biden on the sidelines of a NATO summit “productive and sincere.”

“We believe that there are no unsolvable problems between the relations between the United States and Turkey and that the areas of cooperation for us are richer and larger than the problems,” he said. .

Despite their publicly optimistic tone, neither provided details on exactly how they would mend the relationship or outline measures that would help ease tensions between NATO allies.

Turkey, along with NATO’s Second Army, angered its Western military alliance allies by purchasing Russian surface-to-air missiles and intervening in the wars in Syria and Libya. It is also at an impasse with Greece and Cyprus in the territory of the eastern Mediterranean.

As president, Biden adopted a colder tone than his predecessor Donald Trump towards Erdogan. Biden was quick to recognize the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide – a position that infuriates Turkey – and stepped up his criticism of Turkey’s human rights record.

Washington has already withdrawn Ankara from the F-35 fighter program and imposed sanctions on Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles.

One area where Erdogan hoped to show Turkey’s central role in NATO is Afghanistan, where Ankara has offered to keep and operate Kabul airport after US and NATO forces withdrew in weeks future. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey will play a key role, but no decision was taken at Monday’s summit.

At the start of the senior leaders’ session at NATO, Biden spoke at length with Erdogan in a small group before taking his seat.

Later that day, the two executives and their key associates sat mostly silently on either side of a conference table, ignoring questions posed to them by reporters briefly invited to the room.

Erdogan also met with French President Emmanuel Macron. Ankara and Paris are at odds over Syria, Libya, and Turkey’s critique of the fight against what Macron calls Islamist separatism, among others.

“President Erdogan confirmed during our meeting his wish that foreign mercenaries, foreign militias, operating on Libyan soil leave as soon as possible,” Macron said at a press conference afterwards.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Gabriela Baczynska, Ece Toksabay and TuvanGumrukcu; Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Jonathan Spicer and Steve Holland; Writing by Gabriela Baczynska and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Giles Elgood, Peter Graff and Peter Cooney)

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