Turkey, U.S. hold "productive" meeting to repair bilateral ties, results yet to be seen

2019-11-15 02:14:20 GMT2019-11-15 10:14:20(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

ANKARA, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- Leaders of the United States and Turkey had a "productive" meeting Wednesday at the White House to repair their bilateral relations that have hit rock bottom, but experts said that any improvement needs to be seen in practice.

After the much-awaited encounter in Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump said he was a "great fan" of his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and they had a "productive" meeting.

However, during their press conference following the talks, the two presidents failed to give concrete explanations on how their countries would restore a bruised relationship strained by a series of differences such as Turkey's purchase of Russian defense missile systems and Turkey's operation in Syria against America's Kurdish allies.

"Turkey's acquisition of sophisticated Russian military equipment, such as the S-400, creates some very serious challenges for us and we are talking about it constantly," Trump told a joint press conference.

"In order to achieve progress on other fronts, it is vital that we resolve the issues involving Turkey's purchase of the Russian air defense system, strengthening our defense partnership," said a statement released by the White House after the news conference, using a firmer rhetoric than Trump's warmer narrative against Ankara.

Erdogan and Trump vowed to resolve the issue during their address to reporters on Wednesday but without saying how they would proceed. Erdogan however reiterated Turkey's desire to buy U.S. Patriot missiles if there is a "right offer."

Turkey shrugged off threats of U.S. sanctions and began receiving its S-400 deliveries in July. In response, Washington removed Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program, in which Ankara was a manufacturer and buyer.

But so far, it has not imposed any sanctions, a move that could further weaken the Turkish economy which is recovering from a recession and also deepen mutual distrust between the two nations.

"No new crisis is good enough," Tulin Daloglu, an expert on Turkish-U.S. relations, told Xinhua, indicating that if the S-400 and F-35 snags are removed in their relationship, "it will be easier to clear the bad taste in other areas," implying that concrete solutions are to be found to those core issues in order for the two nations to move ahead.

"It was a good sign that both leaders chose a language that would not add new sensitivity to an already complicated set of troubles as the U.S.-Turkey relationship is going through its most tested times," she pointed out.

Washington and Ankara hit a new crisis point last month over Syria, after Ankara launched a cross-border incursion against America's Kurdish allies.

Ankara's purchase of Russian missile systems already strained U.S.-Turkey relations before the Turkish operation to drive out from northeastern Syria the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), a faction considered as "terrorist" by Ankara.

The Turkish strongman said the two countries had to use dialogue as a means to restore their partnership.

The U.S. House of Representatives last month passed a sanction package to punish Turkey over its Syria operation targeting Washington's main partner in the fight against Islamic State (IS).

The House has also voted in favor of a non-binding resolution recognizing the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians 100 years ago as genocide, for the first time, angering Ankara.

For Ankara, its long-standing extradition request for U.S.-exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen, who it blames for orchestrating the 2016 failed coup, and U.S. charges on Turkish state-owned Halkbank for violating sanctions against Iran are also contentious.

"This visit of President Erdogan is critical as both Erdogan and Trump had to address strategic issues important for the two allies," commented political analyst Murat Yetkin.

Yetkin observed the U.S. president had a difficult task improving relations with Ankara in a domestic atmosphere where he risks impeachment from opponents who want Turkey to be punished.

"How can Trump be trusted to move forward when things look grim for him in the (U.S.) Congress. The anti-Turkish lobby there and its activities make things tricky," he argued in his blog.

Turkey also wants the United States to distance itself from the YPG that it has militarily supported for years.

Since his announcement last December to pull out all troops from Syria, Trump has amended plans and agreed to keep a small force in the country. As part of that plan, Washington wants to continue working with YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces fighters to press on IS, a move Ankara dislikes.

Turkey reached truce agreements with Russia and the U.S., halting its operation into Syria and forced YPG fighters to vacate northeastern parts of the country, finding itself in a position of force, commented Filiz Katman, a scholar from Istanbul Aydin University.

"Russia and the U.S. need Turkey to operate in Syria, and they know that they should not alienate Ankara, which is an essential player in the Middle East," she said on NTV news channel, adding that Turkey is playing a rather successful "balancing act" in order to preserve its mutual interests with both Moscow and Washington.

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