Turkey's Erdogan eyes Russia after lamenting bad start with Biden

Turkish president's difficulties stem from US removal of Ankara from F-35 fighter project two years ago

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. EPA
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said he felt that relations with US leader Joe Biden had "not gotten off to a good start".

He is now looking for a closer relationship with Russia's Vladimir Putin whom he is due to meet in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on September 29.

"My wish is to have friendly and not hostile relations" with the US, Mr Erdogan told the state news agency Anadolu from the UN General Assembly in New York.

"But the way things are going between two Nato allies is currently not too auspicious."

He said had "worked well" with previous US presidents George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

"But I cannot say things have gotten off to a good start with Biden," Mr Erdogan said.

He said he had been unhappy with Washington before Mr Biden took office, especially with Ankara's removal from the F-35 fighter project two years ago after Turkey agreed to buy the S-400 Russian-made air defence system.

That led to US sanctions last year and to Turkey's suspension from the F-35 programme.

Ankara had been allocated as many as 100 of the stealth fighter jets, and several Turkish suppliers were involved in making them.

"We bought the F-35, paid $1.4 billion and the F-35s were not delivered to us," Mr Erdogan said.

"For us the S-400 affair is done. It is not possible to go back on that. The United States must understand. We, Turkey, are honest, but unfortunately the United States were not and are not."

He said that Ankara would be "knocking on other doors" and that "Turkey purchases what it needs for its defence".

On Afghanistan and the instability that followed the recent US withdrawal and Taliban takeover, Mr Erdogan insisted that "it is the United States which must pay the price" if there were a massive departure of Afghan citizens.

"Where are these refugees going to go now? It is unthinkable for Turkey to open its doors and accept them," he said.

Mr Erdogan has repeatedly said Turkey is already home to about 5 million migrants and refugees, including about 3.7 million from Syria and 420,000 Afghans.

Updated: September 24, 2021, 7:45 PM