Erdogan Downplays Rifts With U.S., Dismisses EU Threat

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled he’s interested in resolving differences with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, a vocal critic, as the Turkish government finds itself increasingly at odds with world powers.

Erdogan said on Wednesday that he would probably talk with Biden after he takes office in January to address issues dividing the allies, including the threat of U.S. sanctions over Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile-defense system and American support for Syrian Kurdish forces.

Biden Era, Russia Rifts Jolt Turkey Back Toward Ties With West

Biden last December derided Erdogan as an autocrat and pledged to bolster the Turkish leader’s domestic opposition. But Erdogan chose a different memory.

The incoming U.S. president “is someone who even visited me at my home” back in 2011, Erdogan said before departing for Azerbaijan to celebrate its Turkish-backed gains in the war with Armenia for Nagorno-Karabakh. “I believe we will handle policy matters with the U.S. in a very different way.”

Erdogan struck a conciliatory tone at a time when his country is growing increasingly isolated. Ankara’s military cooperation with Russia alarmed NATO powers that likely will drive a hard bargain before again fully embracing Turkey.

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Turkey’s drilling for gas in the Mediterranean has upset Greece and Cyprus, and drawn threats of European Union sanctions. Erdogan has rowed with French President Emmanuel Macron over the latter’s comments on Islam.

At the same time, Ankara and Moscow’s interests are increasingly diverging. They’ve lined up on opposing sides in proxy conflicts in the Middle East, and just recently in Russia’s Caucasus backyard in the Nagorno-Karabakh fighting.

While making overtures to the incoming Biden administration, Erdogan stood his ground on Turkey’s energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Turkey won’t be swayed if it is sanctioned by the Europeans,” Erdogan said, ahead of a European Council meeting starting Thursday.

Erdogan Warns EU of ‘Blindness’ as Greece Seeks Sanctions

EU leaders are poised to reiterate their sanctions threat without taking any immediate action, according to a draft of their joint statement obtained by Bloomberg. They’ll vow to take a decision in March in coordination with the U.S., according to the draft, which is still subject to changes by the time of the meeting.

The proposed measures fall short of Greek demands for an arms embargo on Turkey and the explicit threat of additional measures, such as a ban on transactions between European institutions and Turkish companies. The joint communique is subject to unanimous approval by all 27 member states, and Greece and Cyprus will likely insist on tougher wording.

— With assistance by Nikos Chrysoloras

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