Turkey, US discuss Ukraine, Gaza, ways to improve ties, foreign min says

By Thomson Reuters Mar 9, 2024 | 12:14 AM

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish and U.S. officials held comprehensive talks about the wars in Ukraine and Gaza and various bilateral issues during meetings in Washington, Turkey’s foreign minister said late on Friday.

The NATO allies started the meetings, dubbed the Strategic Mechanism, on Thursday to discuss efforts to move beyond deep policy disagreements and improve cooperation in other areas.

Ties between the allies have been strained in recent years amid growing disagreements over a range of issues, although relations have since gained momentum following Ankara’s approval of Sweden’s bid to join NATO.

Turkish foreign minister Hakan Fidan said officials from the countries held several rounds of discussions on topics including Syria, the Ukraine, Gaza, defence industry cooperation, energy, and counterterrorism.

“At the moment, especially given the point we have reached, with a renewed psychology, a more positive agenda, we have the opportunity to continue on our path by turning a new page,” he told Turkish media in Washington.

“While managing the problems we face now, it is important to also realise the joint potential the two nations can create and the opportunities they can bring,” he said.

Fidan said he reiterated Turkey’s view that an immediate and lasting ceasefire was needed in Gaza and emphasised the need for countries to do more to ease the humanitarian catastrophe and pave the way for a two-state solution.

He also discussed ways to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with U.S. counterpart Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, reiterating that Ankara believed it is time to discuss paths toward an end to the war but that Turkey did not see this willingness from Kyiv and Moscow.

“We need a basis for talking, for this war to stop, and a dialogue to prevent worse crises, and we call for this,” Fidan said.

The allies still remain at odds over a host of issues, such as Turkey’s acquisition of Russian S-400 defence systems and the U.S. sanctions triggered by that, which led to Turkey’s removal from the F-35 fighter jet programme. Turkey is also deeply concerned over U.S. support for Kurdish militants in Syria, whom Ankara deems terrorists.

Fidan said Turkey maintained its position on Syria and over the F-35s, saying Ankara was owed jets for the payment and work it did as a manufacturer. He said Turkey was open to discussing the matter but Washington needed to be “open minded”.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu. Editing by Sam Holmes.)