Ankara – The meeting between President Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan next week on the sidelines of a NATO summit could give both countries a fresh start if they reach consensus on some of their most pressing issues.
Status of the game: The June 14 meeting is politically sensitive in Ankara. Senior Turkish officials avoid commenting on it and go so far as to skip public events so as not to be forced to speak about the meeting.
Why it matters: It will take place in a fragile moment for US-Turkey relations and with many issues to discuss.
- Turkey’s purchase of a Russian S-400 air defense system and the government̵
- But Ankara needs to maintain a positive relationship with Washington to keep its fragile economy afloat. Erdoğan wants to use this meeting to prevent further US sanctions that will harm the Turkish economy and the defense sector.
What to see: Both leaders are expected to share the issues in the first phase.
- The Biden administration is unlikely to show flexibility in its position that Turkey’s possession of the S-400, activated or not, is unacceptable.
- But abandoning the Russian-made system would be too politically expensive for Erdoğan and make him look weak. As a result, the problem is likely to remain unresolved during this meeting.
- The political differences in Syria will also be difficult to bridge.
- But: Afghanistan could be a way of cooperating, i.a. over the postponed peace conference in Istanbul and Turkey’s continued security role at Kabul International Airport following the US withdrawal.
What they say: “President Biden knows Erdoğan very well. The two men have spent a good deal of time together and they are both looking forward, I look forward to having a business opportunity to review the full breadth of the relationship,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said at a press conference this week.
- This includes Syria and Afghanistan, he noted.
What’s next: Holding this long-awaited meeting in a positive atmosphere can pave the way for concrete results from future meetings, and it will increase expectations for progress in repairing bilateral ties.