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Turkey makes first contact with Biden’s team

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

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

Erdoğan 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 impose various sanctions on Ankara.

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

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

They touched on conflicts in Syria and 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.

According to a statement from the White House on Tuesday, Sullivan underscored the Biden administration’s desire to build constructive US-Turkey ties, expanding areas of cooperation and managing disagreements effectively.

“He conveyed the administration’s intention to strengthen transatlantic security through NATO, expressing concern that Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system undermines alliance cohesion and effectiveness. Mr. Sullivan welcomed the resumption of exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece, and he expressed support for plans by United Nations Secretary General Guterres to resume talks on Cyprus.  He underscored the Biden administration’s broad commitment to supporting democratic institutions and the rule of law. They agreed to cooperate on global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, and to consult closely on regional issues of mutual concern,” said the statement.

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

Erdoğan wants these sanctions lifted, something that 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 the US Congress for even tougher sanctions.

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

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