ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday he felt that relations with his US counterpart Joe Biden had “not gotten off to a good start” since the latter’s arrival in the White House.
“It is my hope that, as two NATO countries, we should treat each other with friendship, not hostility,” he said of the US-Turkey relationship, speaking on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York in a wide-ranging briefing to Turkish journalists.
“But the current trajectory does not bode well,” he said.
He said he had “worked well” with previous US presidents, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump but “I cannot say things have gotten off to a good start with Mr. Biden.”
The Turkish leader said he had been unhappy with Washington before Biden took office, notably regarding Ankara’s removal from the F-35 fighter project two years ago after Turkey agreed a multi-billion-dollar purchase of the S-400 Russian-made air defense system.
That deal led to US sanctions last year and to Turkey’s suspension from the F-35 program. Ankara had been due to as many as 100 of the stealth fighter jets, and several Turkish suppliers were involved in the construction.
“We bought the F-35, paid $1.4 billion and the F-35 were not delivered to us,” Erdogan said.
“For us, the S-400 affair is done. It is not possible to go back on that. The United States must understand. We, Turkey, are honest, but unfortunately, the United States were not and are not,” he said.
Erdogan said that Ankara would go “knocking on other doors” and that “Turkey purchases what it needs for its defense.”
Turning to Afghanistan and the instability which followed the recent US withdrawal and the Taliban takeover, Erdogan insisted that “it is the United States which must pay the price” in case there is a massive exodus of Afghan citizens.
“Where are these refugees going to go now? It is unthinkable for Turkey to open its doors and accept them,” said Erdogan.
Erdogan has repeatedly pointed out that Turkey already is home to some five million migrants and refugees — including around 3.7 million from Syria and some 420,000 Afghans.
Questioned about the new Taliban government in Afghanistan, Erdogan said it was unfortunate that an inclusive leadership had not been formed earlier this month, when the group revealed an all-male cabinet of hardliners.
“There are signals coming that there may be some changes, that there may be a more inclusive atmosphere in the administration,” he said. “If such a step can be taken, then we can move to the point of discussing with them what we can do together.”
Turkish and Qatari technicians have been working to fully reopen Kabul airport following the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan last month.
Looking ahead to his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on September 29, Erdogan said they would discuss bilateral relations and Syria, particularly the situation in Idlib, the final rebel stronghold in the country.
Erdogan also addressed his call for reform of the UN and said he had proposed the “radical step” of removing the veto power of the Security Council’s five permanent members through an extraordinary meeting of the General Assembly “when necessary.”