Erdogan pins hope for ‘new era’ with US on June meeting

Turkish president woos American executives as he seeks investments to revive economy.
Thursday 27/05/2021
A file picture shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attending a news conference in Budapest, Hungary November 7, 2019. (REUTERS)
A file picture shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attending a news conference in Budapest, Hungary November 7, 2019. (REUTERS)

ISTANBUL--Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked several US corporate executives for better ties in a call on Wednesday in which he again criticised the White House’s decision to call the 1915 Ottoman massacre of Armenians a  “genocide”.

Erdogan said US-Turkey ties would nonetheless enter a “new era” after his face-to-face meeting with President Joe Biden set for June 14, their first since last year’s US election.

The video conference call, first reported by Reuters on Monday, included officials from Boeing, Amazon, Microsoft, Kellogg, PepsiCo, Cisco, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, according to a video aired on Turkish TV.

Erdogan thanked companies that believed in Turkey and said he expects the United States to be more constructive, adding US tariffs on aluminium and steel remain a problem. He said they could cooperate in Syria and in Libya including in energy.

“I believe we will make Turkey … a base for production and technology,” he told the executives via a translator in televised remarks.

“Biden’s statement on the 1915 events has put an added burden on our ties, but I believe the meeting we will hold on June 14 at the NATO summit will be the sign of a new era,” he added.

“By simplifying our incentive system, we will ensure investors can take advantage of incentives easier.”

Biden and Erdogan have held only one call, on April 23 when Biden said he would call the massacre of Armenians a genocide, a move that drew Turkish condemnation.

The Turkish president has been trying to mend ties with Western allies and regional rivals following a string of international disputes that left him isolated while grappling with the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden has made a point of highlighting Turkey’s dire record on human rights after he replaced Erdogan’s ally Donald Trump in the White House in January.

Biden waited for three months before calling Erdogan for the first time on the eve of his historic decision to recognise the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman empire during World War I.

The two then agreed to meet on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels on June 14.

“I believe that our meeting with Mr Biden at the Nato summit will be the harbinger of a new era,” Erdogan said in a televised address.

“We value our alliance with the US.”

Ankara’s relations with Washington have suffered from Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile defence system that NATO fears can gather intelligence on its military hardware.

Washington has imposed sanctions on Turkey’s main military procurement agency over the purchase, the first time a NATO member state has been punished for buying Russian arms.

But Erdogan is keen to bring new Western investments into Turkey that could help revive the economy and create jobs.