President Biden will confront Erdogan on Turkey’s behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Caucasus next week, State Antony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.
Turkey’s behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean will be “front and center on the agenda” of the meeting between the two leaders, he said.
The meeting, planned to take place on June 14 on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels.
Blinken was responding to questions from the chair of the Committee Bob Menendez, who argued that Turkey “is constantly violating international law when it threatens Cyprus and its exclusive economic zone, when it declares an economic zone going to Libya that is not recognized at all but interferes with Greece’s economic zone.”
Menendez also highlighted Turkey’s “aggression against Armenia through Azerbaijan,” and noted its “nefarious role” in Libya.
“So, what are we doing to counter Turkey under Erdogan? And, I say Turkey under Erdogan because it’s not about the Turkish people, but it’s certainly about its leader,” Menendez asked.
Secretary Blinken noted that, “We certainly share those concerns and have engaged Turkey directly on them.”
When Secretary Blinken argued that the US must keep Turkey “anchored to the West and aligned on some other critical issues,” Senator Menendez shot back:
“I understand we want Turkey anchored to the West but you can’t be anchored to the West and drifting in every other direction further away on all the core principles we believe in as a NATO ally and also all the other ones.”
“Significant differences” between US and Turkey
On Monday, Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security advisor, said the two leaders will look at the “significant differences” between Washington and Ankara.
Speaking at a White House briefing, he said the eastern Mediterranean, Syria, Iran, as well as the role that Turkey will play in Afghanistan as the United States withdraws from the country will be part of the “expansive agenda”.
In addition, the meeting will also review their ties and look for ways on how the United States and Turkey deal with some of their “significant differences on values and human rights and other issues”, Sullivan said.
Ankara and Washington have been struggling to repair ties, strained in recent years over several issues, including Turkey’s purchase of Russian defence systems which resulted in U.S. sanctions, policy differences in Syria, as well as Washington’s alarm over Ankara’s human rights track record.
The two NATO allies also have differing views in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as well as Ankara’s oil and gas ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean.
Biden called Erdogan “autocrat”
Joe Biden, who in a late 2019 interview with the New York Times called Turkey’s leader an “autocrat” and talked of emboldening Turkey’s opposition to force him out of office. Erdogan adviser Ibrahim Kalin later said this analysis of Biden’s stemmed from “pure ignorance, arrogance and hypocrisy.”
Things have improved little in the interim. Days after taking office, the Biden administration criticized Turkey’s imprisonment of political foes like Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas and philanthropist Osman Kavala.
In April,Biden became the first US president in 40 years to recognize the Armenian genocide, upsetting Turkey, which refuses that label.
He also waited three months after taking office to speak with Mr Erdogan on the phone, which many viewed as an intentional slight.