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Biden and Erdoğan exchange smiles, elbow-bumps in first meeting

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President Biden on Monday said he had a “positive and productive meeting” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the sideline of the NATO summit in Brussels.

Biden spoke to the press more than two hours after concluding his sit-down with Erdoğan. The Turkish president’s office on Twitter had earlier released photos of the meeting showing the two leaders smiling and bumping elbows. 

Biden said the two leaders spent much of the meeting speaking one-on-one, and that they had “detailed discussions about how to proceed on a number of issues.” 

“Our two countries have big agendas, our teams are going to continue our discussions and I’m confident we’ll make real progress with Turkey and the United States,” he said.

Biden’s upbeat tone about the relationship with Turkey reflects a desire by the administration to normalize relations that have fractured on a number of fronts. 

One issue of concern is Turkey’s possession of a Russian S-400 missile defense system, which the State Department has said is “incompatible” with Ankara’s position as a NATO ally. 

Biden’s State Department has also issued numerous critical statements against Turkey for accusing the U.S. of conspiring against Erdoğan’s government in the 2016 coup, stifling political opposition and calling out Erdoğan for antisemitic comments directed towards Israel. 

While Biden vowed to take a tough line on Turkey during his run for office, he has reached out to Erdoğan in an effort to soften tensions and avoid overt confrontation. This includes the president calling Erdoğan ahead of his statement recognizing the Armenian Genocide, a redline for Turkey which disputes its responsibility for the Ottoman-era atrocities. 

Likewise, the Turkish president is eager to promote improved ties with the West amid financial strains in Turkey. 

Reuters reported Monday that the value of the Turkish lira, the local currency, rose in anticipation of the meeting between Biden and Erdoğan. 

Updated at 4:30 p.m.

Tags Ankara Brussels Diplomatic relations Foreign policy Joe Biden NATO NATO summit Russia Turkey

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