Turkey is an issue of mutual concern for the United States and the European Union, as is China, according to a White House statement released on Thursday after a phone call between US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Bjoern Seibert, the head of cabinet of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.
The White House statement said Sullivan and Seibert “agreed to work together on issues of mutual concern, including China and Turkey.”
The phone call came amid renewed enthusiasm over revitalizing the US-EU partnership, which suffered under the policies of former US President Donald Trump.
Ankara has recently been problematic for both Washington and Brussels.
The EU’s relations with Turkey, a NATO member country, have plunged to a nadir not seen since Turkey formally opened talks to join the bloc in 2005, a process that is now frozen, mostly due to what the EU views as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s bellicose foreign policy.
The bloc has a raft of significant issues with Turkey, including Ankara’s role in the Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts.
The spiraling tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, during which gunboats from NATO allies Turkey and Greece collided, threatened to strain ties to the breaking point.
US-Turkish relations have soured over a spate of issues since 2016, including Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defense system, differences in policy toward Syrian Kurds, an ongoing legal case that implicates a state bank and high-ranking officials in a sanctions-busting scheme and the detention of US consulate employees and citizens in Turkey.
Nevertheless, according to observers, further deterioration was prevented by “backdoor diplomacy” between Erdoğan and Trump.
US President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump, who once called the Turkish leader a “good friend,” seems to be ushering a new era in Ankara’s relations with its Western allies, as the country’s assertive policies are expected to be confronted by a more coordinated transatlantic alliance.
“Biden’s victory has reshuffled the cards. Turkey expects the next US administration will be less inclined to let it off the hook,” Agence-France Presse quoted a European diplomat as saying in a recent report. The Biden administration has not yet contacted the Turkish government.
Erdoğan insisted he wants to “turn a new page” in Ankara’s relations with Brussels in a phone call this month with EU Commission President von der Leyen.
While the EU says the signs coming from Turkey are positive, it insists that Ankara needs to turn them into “concrete facts and actions.”