Turkey talks up Erdoğan-Biden meeting, White House cagey

Turkey is optimistic about the outlook for a meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Joe Biden at a NATO summit on June 14, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoğlu said.

Ankara is approaching the talks “with a positive agenda” and it is getting the same messages from Washington, Çavusoğlu told the state-run TRT television in an interview on Wednesday.

“We see that the U.S. wants to cooperate with us not only on the issues of Syria and Libya, but also in many areas from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea and the Caucasus,” Çavusoğlu said.

Biden is meeting with Erdoğan during an historic low point in bilateral ties rooted in disagreements over policy on Syria, Libya, the eastern Mediterranean and Turkey’s acquisition of S-400 air defence missiles from Russia.   

“We see that the U.S. is willing to work with Turkey in many strategic fields. We have been observing this in all our contacts, including with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Biden,” Çavusoğlu said.

The minister called on the United States to provide it with Patriot air defence missiles to help it meet its military needs.

“If the U.S. does not guarantee Patriot [missiles], we can get air defence systems from our other allies,” he said.

Çavusoğlu highlighted disagreements between the two governments, including the S-400s, U.S. support for Kurdish militants in northern Syria and its refusal to extradite Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen for trial in Turkey on charges of organising a failed military coup in 2016.

“How are we going to resolve these issues? Will we be able to strengthen our cooperation while repairing future-oriented ties?” he said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would have the opportunity to conduct important face-to-face talks with Erdoğan, the leader of a NATO partner.

"There are areas where we feel it’s important to continue to constructively work together where there’s opportunity, and also areas where we have strong disagreement," she said on Wednesday.  And it’s an opportunity to have that face-to-face diplomacy, which the president felt was important to do as a priority bilateral meeting during his first trip overseas." 

Biden and Erdoğan will discuss issues such as regional security, COVID-19 and the economy, Psaki said.
"We’ll have more, I’m sure, as we get closer to the bilateral meeting," she said.

(This story was updated with White House press secretary from the eighth paragraph.)