US takes tougher tone on Turkey as Trump steps out

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The expected sanctions are sure to hammer Turkey’s already strained economy and could force Erdogan to withdraw from most of his military missions abroad. (An exception would be in neighboring Syria, where Turkey is fighting ISIS militants and US-backed Kurdish fighters; Mr Erdogan considers both groups to be terrorists and it is unlikely that they withdraw.)

Experts warn that could push Turkey into Russia’s arms if Mr Biden is not careful.

“Relations with Turkey will be a major and urgent issue for the Biden administration,” said James F. Jeffrey, former US ambassador to Turkey and Iraq who retired last month as the department’s special envoy. State for Syrian Policy and the Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State.

“Given the size, location, economic and military might of the country and the pro-Western sentiments of the people – if not of its president – does it make sense to sideline Turkey? or push it into the Russian camp? ” Said Mr. Jeffrey.

He noted that Turkey and Russia were opposite sides in the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. He also remains a key NATO ally in Iraq and Afghanistan, and opposes Iran’s regional advances.

The senior Turkish official described Erdogan’s interests as ultimately having more in common with the West than with Russia. But, he said, the way the Biden administration approaches the dispute over missile defense systems will be a first test.

It is far from certain that a compromise can be found. But the Turkish official said Biden’s advisers had indicated in low-level talks that they were ready to consider compromises as proposed, including the convening of a task force of the NATO to examine whether Russia could effectively penetrate Western military systems through missile defense systems.

A spokesperson for Mr. Biden’s transition team declined to comment.

The senior Turkish official also said that Biden’s advisers have made it clear that they will engage with Turkey through traditional and technical diplomatic channels – and not rely on the kind of spontaneous and direct lines of communication. that marked the relationship between Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan.

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