Biden meets Erdogan amid tension over defense, human rights

U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan pose for a photo as they attend a bilateral meeting, on the sidelines of the G20 leaders’ summit in Rome, Italy October 31, 2021. (Reuters photo)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — U.S. President Joe Biden met with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Rome on Sunday amid a request from Turkey for F-16 fighter jets and tension over human rights.

In a statement, White House said Biden emphasized his desire to maintain “constructive relations, expand areas of cooperation, and manage our disagreements effectively”.

The two leaders also discussed the political process in Syria, the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Afghans in need, elections in Libya, the situation in Mediterranean, and diplomatic efforts in the South Caucasus, the statement read.

Biden reaffirmed “our defense partnership and Turkey’s importance as a NATO ally, but noted U.S. concerns over Turkey’s possession of the Russian S-400 missile system,” the statement cited him as saying.

He also stressed the importance of strong democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and the rule of law for peace and prosperity,” White House said.

On Saturday, a U.S. official said Biden would warn Erdogan during the meeting that any “precipitous” actions would not benefit U.S.-Turkish relations.

The official comments came after Erdogan threatened to throw out the U.S. ambassador to Turkey and other foreign envoys for seeking the release of jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala.

Erdogan later withdrew his threat to expel the envoys.

The official further said a meeting between the two leaders may not have happened if Erdogan had expelled the U.S. ambassador.

Biden was expected to discuss Turkey’s request to purchase F-16 fighter jets, which U.S. lawmakers have opposed on the grounds that Turkey purchased Russian missile defense systems.

Biden and Erdogan posed for photos before their talks on Sunday. Asked if he planned to give Turkey F-16s, Biden said they were “planning to have a good conversation”.

The alliance between the United States and Turkey, both members of NATO, has come under strain in recent years over policy differences on Syria, Turkey’s Russian S-400 missile defence purchase, and human rights.

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