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In phone call with Biden, Erdogan stresses importance of Ukraine war mediation

Conversation comes following failed negotiations in Turkey between Ukrainian and Russian top diplomats, and President Herzog’s visit to Ankara

US President Joe Biden, left, shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of the opening session of the G20 summit at the La Nuvola conference center, in Rome, on October 30, 2021. (Erin Schaff/Pool Photo via AP)
US President Joe Biden, left, shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of the opening session of the G20 summit at the La Nuvola conference center, in Rome, on October 30, 2021. (Erin Schaff/Pool Photo via AP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday told US President Joe Biden that mediating the Ukraine-Russia war was important to Ankara, after the two sides’ top diplomats held talks in Turkey.

Ankara has close ties with Moscow and Kyiv and hosted a landmark meeting between Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Russia’s Sergei Lavrov in the southern resort city of Antalya on Thursday.

The talks failed to achieve a breakthrough on a ceasefire or humanitarian issues, but highlighted Turkey’s role as a mediator in the two-week-old war.

Erdogan said being able to talk to both sides and being a “facilitator” in the search for a resolution to the conflict mattered to Turkey during a 45-minute telephone call with Biden, according to the Turkish presidency.

The White House said Biden “expressed appreciation” for Turkey’s mediation efforts and that both leaders “reaffirmed their strong support” for Ukraine against Russian aggression.

According to the Turkish presidency’s statement, Erdogan also demanded the lifting of “unfair sanctions” Washington placed on its fellow NATO member in 2019 after Turkey adopted a Russian defense system.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sits in front of his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, foreground left, during a tripartite meeting chaired by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Antalya, Turkey, on March 10, 2022. (Cem Ozdel/Turkish Foreign Ministry via AP)

Ankara seeks to acquire 40 F-16 fighter jets and the spare parts needed to maintain and modernize its existing F-16 fleet.

Turkey spent $1.4 billion when it ordered F-35 stealth fighter jets, but the planes have not been delivered after the US froze the contract in 2019 over Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 anti-missile defense system.

The system is seen as a threat for F-35 jets, prompting Washington to exclude Turkey from its cutting-edge military program.

Turkey has delivered combat drones to its ally Ukraine, but also wants to maintain good relations with Russia, which it depends on closely for its tourism sector and wheat and energy supplies.

President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential complex in Ankara, on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The phone call also came following President Isaac Herzog’s visit to Turkey and meeting with Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday, marking a renewal in ties between the nations following years of rocky relations.

Herzog said Thursday that his Turkish counterpart showed a willingness to address a range of issues and that though there are challenges to repairing relations between the countries, there is a mutual interest in doing so.

Herzog’s trip to Ankara on Wednesday was the highest-level visit by an Israeli official since former prime minister Ehud Olmert went to Turkey in 2008.

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