Erdogan upbeat over relations with Macron and Biden after Nato summit meetings

Turkish president discussed tackling problems in Syria and Libya with Nato allies

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a NATO summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Monday, June 14, 2021. U.S. President Joe Biden is taking part in his first NATO summit, where the 30-nation alliance hopes to reaffirm its unity and discuss increasingly tense relations with China and Russia, as the organization pulls its troops out after 18 years in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, Pool)
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to have been successful in thawing relations with the US and France on Monday during meetings at the Nato summit in Brussels.

In an important day of talks between the Turkish president and other western leaders, the main focus was on his meeting with US President Joe Biden.

The two leaders sounded upbeat after their first face-to-face talks, although they did not announce major breakthroughs in their relationship, continuing to be at odds over Russian weapons, Syria, Libya and other issues.

"We had a positive and productive meeting, much of it one-on-one," Mr Biden told a news conference after their meeting in Brussels.

"Our teams are going to continue our discussions and I'm confident we'll make real progress with Turkey and the United States," he added.

Mr Erdogan characterised his talks with Mr Biden on the sidelines of a Nato summit as "productive and sincere".

"We think that there are no issues between the US and Turkey relationship that are unsolvable and that areas of co-operation for us are richer and larger than problems," he said.

Despite their publicly optimistic tone, neither provided any details on how exactly they would mend the relationship or lay out steps that would help ease tension between their countries.

During his 2020 US presidential election campaign, Mr Biden called the Turkish leader an "autocrat" and condemned Turkey's Ottoman-era action against Armenians from 1915, which he described as a "genocide".

Before travelling to Brussels for the Nato summit, Mr Erdogan told reporters he would raise the issue with Mr Biden, which he called "very negative" and that they had "seriously upset us".

He later told reporters, "Thank God, it didn't come up".

The pair addressed the dispute over Turkey's purchase of a Russian S-400 advanced surface-to-air missile defence system, which led to the country being expelled from the US F-35 fighter aircraft programme.

Washington said the S-400 system was a threat to Nato security and insisted that sanctions could not be lifted on Turkey until it disposed of the system, which cost $2.5 billion.

Mr Erdogan previously said Turkey was forced to purchase the system after Washington declined to provide the country with US Patriot missiles.

“Our thoughts on the S-400 are the same as before; I relayed our same thoughts to Mr Biden,” Mr Erdogan said.

The two leaders discussed Syria and Iran, as well as the role Turkey could play with regard to Afghanistan after the American troop withdrawal.

"If they don’t want us to leave Afghanistan, if they want [Turkish] support there, then the diplomatic, logistic and financial support that the United States will give us will be of great importance," Mr Erdogan said afterwards.

The relationship differs from the relatively untroubled one Mr Erdogan had with former US president Donald Trump.

Mr Trump upset his allies by suddenly withdrawing US troops from northern Syria while allowing Turkish troops in.

Mr Erdogan said he had invited Mr Biden to visit Turkey.

In addition to his meeting with Mr Biden, Mr Erdogan also met French President Emmanuel Macron.

After a year of bitter exchanges between Mr Erdogan and Mr Macron, the two appeared to have eased their differences as they look to tackle problems in Syria and Libya, Mr Macron's office said.

Before Monday's closed-door meeting with Mr Macron, Mr Erdogan said the two countries would "have the opportunity to discuss the positive and negative aspects of Turkish-French relations".

Last year, Ankara and Paris sparred over a host of international issues – including the conflicts in Syria, Libya and the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, over which Azerbaijani and Armenian forces fought last year.

These diplomatic tensions were accompanied by a personal feud between the two men.

Mr Macron previously said Turks “deserve something else” than the policies of Mr Erdogan, while Mr Erdogan suggested the French president “needed a mental health check-up”.

But it now appears the pair will attempt to work together on stabilising conflicts in Syria and Libya, with Nato hoping that Turkey will curb its adventurist approach in the Eastern Mediterranean.

"President Erdogan confirmed during our meeting his wish that the foreign mercenaries, the foreign militias, operating on Libyan soil leave as soon as possible," Mr Macron told a news conference afterwards.

Mr Macron also told reporters that he and Mr Erdogan have found some areas of convergence to preserve the ceasefire in Libya and meet the goal to hold elections in December in the country.

After his own meeting with Mr Erdogan, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he welcomed the “de-escalation of tension in the Eastern Mediterranean” after Turkey had begun exploratory gas drilling in Greek waters last year.

Mr Johnson, who previously made disparaging remarks about Mr Erdogan, also discussed a range of foreign policy issues including Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.

The Turkish leader will also meet other world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.