Turkish FM visits US to warm ties

WASHINGTON: Relations between the United States and Türkiye have been lukewarm in recent years, particularly what Ankara sees as Washington’s reluctance to cooperate against terrorism. Amid the disagreements between the NATO allies, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has planned a visit to the U.S. Çavuşoğlu is set to arrive in the country later on Tuesday for a three-day visit.
He will attend a “strategic mechanism” meeting between Turkish and U.S. officials and is scheduled to hold a separate meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The two countries will aim to smooth out a series of disagreements between them, though expectations that outstanding issues can be resolved are quite low.
Positioned at the crossroads between East and West, Türkiye remains strategically important for Washington, especially in a region where it has few allies and much opposition. Ankara’s key role in diplomatic issues, like brokering a crucial agreement between U.S. ally Ukraine and arch-foe Russia last year that allowed millions of tons of Ukrainian grain to be transported to world markets to avert a global food crisis, heightens Türkiye’s importance for the U.S. Yet, the Biden administration increasingly frustrates Türkiye for its opposition to purchasing Russian-made S-400 missiles and lingering support for the PKK and its Syrian wing, the YPG, based in northern Syria which enjoys Washington’s support under the pretext of fighting against other terrorist groups.
The acquisition of the S-400 air defense system in 2017 led to sanctions and Türkiye being removed from the development program for the next-generation F-35 fighter plane. After losing out on the F-35, Ankara is currently trying to restock its F-16 fleet. But the deal faces opposition in Congress.
Çavuşoğlu sounded confident this week that the deal for the purchase of 40 F-16 jets as well as technology for the update of its existing fleet would overcome congressional hurdles. “We have reached an agreement with the (Biden) administration, and it is important that the administration has emphasized that the agreement is not only important for Türkiye but for NATO as well,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters. “If the administration stands firm then there will be no problem.”
U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel responded Friday to media reports that the Biden administration is also seeking congressional approval for shipping F-35s to Greece, another NATO member and a neighbor of Türkiye, which often warns Athens not to rely on Western support and threaten Türkiye over a series of disputes, namely territorial waters between them and the two countries’ rights over them.
“Türkiye and Greece both are vital, vital NATO allies and we have a history of supporting their security apparatuses. But I’m just not going to get ahead of the process here,” Patel said.