Biden concerned over Turkey’s possession of Russian S-400

US president Joe Biden has “reaffirmed” Washington’s defense partnership with Ankara, and Turkey’s “importance as a NATO ally”, but also voiced “US concerns over Ankara’s possession of the Russian S-400 missile system”.

US President Joe Biden held a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Italy’s Rome on Sunday. Biden has told Erdogan the United States is concerns about Turkey’s possession of the Russian S-400 defense system.

Biden and Erdogan have agreed to establish a mechanism to strengthen and improve bilateral ties between the NATO allies, Anadolu Agency reported.

The leaders held talks Sunday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome, where they were said to have discussed a range of issues, including trade, climate change, and the strategic partnership between the two countries and within NATO.

The meeting was said to have lasted for an hour and ten minutes, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also present.

The White House issued a readout summary of the conversation, indicating that “President Biden underscored his desire to maintain constructive relations, expand areas of cooperation, and manage our disagreements effectively.”

“[Biden] expressed appreciation for Turkey’s nearly two decades of contributions to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The leaders discussed the political process in Syria, the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Afghans in need, elections in Libya, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, and diplomatic efforts in the South Caucasus,” the readout added.

Turkey has been involved in all of the aforementioned conflicts, joining the US and other NATO states in the 19+ year war and occupation of Afghanistan, occupying areas of northern Syria, providing diplomatic and military support to the Tripoli-based government during Libya’s civil war, engaging in a diplomatic spat with Greece and Egypt involving the use of warships and military aircraft in the Med, and providing military support to Azerbaijan in last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh between Baku and Armenian militias in the breakaway region.

The White House readout noted that Biden had “reaffirmed” Washington’s defense partnership with Ankara, and Turkey’s “importance as a NATO ally”, but also voiced “US concerns over Turkey’s possession of the Russian S-400 missile system”, and “emphasized the importance of strong democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and the rule of law for peace and prosperity”.

An unnamed Turkish official noted the talks between Erdogan and Biden took place in a “very positive” atmosphere.

On Saturday, a US official told reporters that Biden would convey to Erdogan the need to avoid “precipitous action” that could damage relations further.

Sunday’s meeting comes after the two countries narrowly avoided sparking off a new crisis in relations after Erdogan threatened to boot out ten foreign diplomats – including the US ambassador, after they demanded the release of Turkish businessman and activist Osman Kavala, who has been under arrest and facing trial for most of the past four years on charges of fomenting unrest and related to the 2016 Turkish coup attempt.

On Monday, Erdogan announced that the spat over the ambassadors had been “resolved” after the affected countries’ embassies promised not to interfere in the Turkish legal system’s proceedings.

On Saturday, an unnamed US official told reporters that Biden would warn his Turkish counterpart at their Sunday meeting not to take any more steps like those related to the Kavala incident that might further damage ties between the allies.

US demands for Kavala’s release are the latest chapter in a years’ long saga of deteriorating ties between Ankara and Washington.

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