Turkey, US stick to positive agenda despite rows 

Turkey, US stick to positive agenda despite rows 

The second in-person meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and United States President Joe Biden that took place on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Rome on Oct.31 helped the two allies to review the state of bilateral ties and ways to move forward despite long-standing differences. 

The statements issued by the White House and other senior U.S. officials reiterated that Washington sees Turkey through the lens of a NATO ally and a strategic partner with which engagement at the highest level is a requirement. Erdoğan and other senior Turkish authorities reaffirmed Turkey’s will to stay connected with the U.S. in the bilateral and regional contexts while describing the Rome summit between the two leaders as constructive and productive to that end. 

Instead of getting stuck with major problems, such as Turkey’s deployment of the Russian S-400s or the U.S. support to the YPG in northern Syria, the two leaders seem to agree on the necessity of prevailing a positive agenda in bilateral relations. That agenda includes the recognition of common purposes and common areas in Africa in the broader sense, Libya in a specific case, Caucasus, Syria’s Idlib, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Black Sea, Turkey’s ties with the European Union and etc.  

But not limited to them, either. The fact that Turkey and the U.S. are in a process of starting talks about the former’s recent request of purchasing 40 new F-16s and 80 modernization kits for its existing fleets and its claims over the F-35 joint fighter program, adds a new dimension to this positive agenda. 

There are two different tracks covering the F-16 and F-35 talks between the two allies. As known, Turkey has already been withdrawn from the F-35 program after it had deployed the first batch of S-400 air defense systems from Russia in mid-2019 despite U.S. warnings. Turkey now claims $1.4 billion from the U.S., the amount of money it paid for five stealth jet fighters that were never delivered. Technical talks between the two countries’ legal experts and lawyers began in late October, with the expectation that this complex process may take longer than many anticipated. 

A U.S. official speaking to a group of journalists, including this columnist, underlined that these F-35 claim talks are not political discussions but “legal and accountancy/contract-based dispute resolution negotiations.”  
Turkey is now formally out of the F-35 program. Full stop. It’s done. Turkey formally departed from the project as of Sept. 23.  Turkish companies will continue producing F-35 parts for another several months or a bit longer but then it will end. The production of those parts has already been contracted to other countries,” the official stated. 

Talks over Turkey’s request for the acquisition of new F-16 platforms will begin next month, according to the official. “This is a very large, complex request. A number of licenses will ultimately need to be submitted to Congress for tiered review. Previous licenses do not apply to the current request. These are new platforms, new technologies, new licenses,” informed the official. 

“This is a process of discussion between the Administration and Turkey at the technical level that will take many months. The Administration acknowledges the security needs of Turkey as an Ally and a strategic partner,” the official added. 

When talking about a congressional approval over Turkey’s F-16 request, it is difficult to underestimate the existing bipartisan anti-Turkey sentiment in both chambers of the U.S. Congress stemming from both the deployment of S-400s and human rights deficiencies. 

Erdoğan has publicly expressed his expectation from Biden for putting his weight on the Congress but overcoming the current trend among the U.S. congressmen is even difficult for the White House given the political circumstances in light of recent experiences. 

At this stage, however, it seems neither Ankara nor Washington want to be bothered with a possible congressional blockage. Instead, they prefer to focus on the technical talks over F-35 claims and F-16 acquisition as well as on the regional issues they have commonalities on in a bid to prevail the positive agenda in ties.

Serkan Demirtaş, US, Diplomacy,