Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticised the political approach of the United States towards Turkey under President Joe Biden, saying that tensions between the two countries were unprecedented in recent times.
Erdoğan said there had been no such problems with former U.S. leaders, either Republican or Democrat, including George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
“We will ask why Turkey-U.S. relations are going through such a tense period,” Erdoğan said in a televised interview with the state-run TRT broadcaster late on Tuesday, referring to a planned meeting with Biden at a NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium starting on June 14.
Relations between the United States and NATO member Turkey have been tangled in disagreements over Syria, Libya, the eastern Mediterranean and Erdoğan’s increasingly cosy relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Turkey’s decision to purchase S-400 air defence missiles from Russia in 2019 has resulted in its exclusion from a programme to purchase U.S. F-35 stealth fighter jets and sanctions against its defence procurement agency.
Erdoğan drew particular attention to the constructive relationship he enjoyed with former U.S. President Donald Trump, saying that the two leaders had planned face to face meetings together and telephone diplomacy had been “very calm”, easing Turkey’s concerns about bilateral relations.
Biden has labelled Erdoğan’s leadership style as autocratic and has criticised the country’s human rights record. He and Erdoğan held their first telephone call in late April, more than three months after Biden’s inauguration.
“Unfortunately, the meeting traffic with Biden has not been so smooth,” he said. “Now we will come together at the NATO summit and talk things through.”
Erdoğan criticised a decision by Biden in April to recognise the mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey early last century as genocide.
“Those who corner Turkey this way will lose an important friend,” he said.
Erdoğan said Turkey saw two main problems in U.S. relations – Washington’s support for Kurdish fighters in Syria that Turkey considers as terrorists and the failure of the United States to hand over Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic preacher residing in Pennsylvania who Turkey blames for orchestrating a failed military coup in 2016. Gülen denies the charges and U.S. officials say Turkey has failed to provide sufficient evidence to implicate him.
The United States has turned a blind eye to evidence provided by Turkey showing that Kurdish militants in Syria are an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for four decades, Erdoğan said. The PKK is recognised as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.
“If you are our ally, are you going to stand with us or are you going to stand with these terrorists?” he said. “Unfortunately, they are taking the side of these terrorists.”
The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have fought alongside U.S. troops in the battles against Islamic State (ISIS).