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Turkey’s Erdogan belatedly joins leaders congratulating Biden, urges closer ties

Turkish president issues statement 3 days after former VP declared winner of US election; Russian, Chinese and Brazilian leaders all still yet to publicly acknowledge victory

US Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, August 24, 2016. (Kayhan Ozer, Presidential Press Service Pool via AP)
US Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, August 24, 2016. (Kayhan Ozer, Presidential Press Service Pool via AP)

ISTANBULTurkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday congratulated Joe Biden on his victory over Donald Trump in the US presidential election, urging closer ties between the two NATO allies.

Erdogan’s statement came a full three days after US media called the election in Biden’s favor, underscoring the close personal bond the Turkish leader enjoyed with Trump.

But Ankara and Washington also experienced tensions during Trump’s four years in office, including over US support for a Syrian Kurdish militia that Turkey views as a grave security threat.

“I congratulate you on your election success and convey my sincere wishes for the peace and welfare of the US people,” Erdogan said in a statement published by his office, urging “strong cooperation” between the sides.

Other issues standing between Ankara and Washington include Turkey’s purchase of a high-tech Russian missile defense system, and US refusal to extradite a Muslim cleric Erdogan blames for staging a failed 2016 coup.

US President Donald Trump, left, walks off toward the Oval Office after posing for photographers with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before a meeting in the White House, November 13, 2019, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

“The challenges we face today, on the global and regional levels, require us to further develop and strengthen those relations, which are based in mutual interests and shared values,” Erdogan said.

Turkish officials have been alarmed by an interview Biden gave to The New York Times in December in which he called Erdogan an “autocrat.”

Biden criticized the Turkish leader’s policies towards the Kurds and said Washington needed to “embolden” his rivals to allow them “to take on and defeat Erdogan.”

Erdogan’s spokesman said in August that the remarks showed “pure ignorance, arrogance and hypocrisy.”

The Turkish leader did not directly address them in his statement Tuesday.

While most world leaders swiftly congratulated Biden on his victory Saturday, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil have yet to publicly acknowledge his election win.

After a conspicuously long hiatus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement early Sunday morning congratulating Biden.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a joint press conference with then-US vice president Joe Biden at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on March 9, 2016, during Biden’s official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. (Amit Shabi/POOL)

“Congratulations @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris. Joe, we’ve had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel,” Netanyahu wrote on his personal Twitter account at 7 a.m. in Israel (midnight EST), more than 12 hours after US media networks called the presidency for Biden.

“I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the US and Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Analysts pointed out that in his tweets and subsequent remarks to the cabinet, Netanyahu, like Erdogan, did not address Biden as “president-elect” and did not explicitly state that the former vice president and Delaware senator had won the elections.

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