Turkey- U.S. relations improvement unlikely under Biden - former U.S. envoy Jeffrey

It is unlikely that relations between Turkey and the United States will improve under the Joe Biden administration, the former U.S. Syria envoy James Jeffrey said on Tuesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has failed to “seize opportunities’’ and take compromising steps on a number of issues over which former U.S. President Donald Trump offered Turkey concessions, Jeffrey told Deutsche Welle Turkish.

In recent year, relations between the NATO allies have been strained by a string of issues, including Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence system, the threat of sanctions against Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank for evading Iran sanctions and Turkey’s stance against an array of regional players in war-torn Libya, among others.

The former top U.S. envoy for Syria pointed to the Ankara-Washington crisis over the S-400 systemsin particular as a barrier in improving bilateral relations.

“The S-400s are a disaster for  Turkey... Purchasing them was a historic mistake,’’ Jeffrey said, noting that the acquisition cost Ankara the F-35 fighter jet programme.

Turkey acquired the Russian systems in 2019, despite threats of sanctions from the United States, which says the system potentially undermines NATO’s defences.

 The purchase prompted the U.S.’ removal of Turkeyfrom the F-35 joint strike fighter programme and Washington last month slapped Turkey with sanctions over the systems.

Trump made multiple attempts to compromise with Erdoğan over the matter, Jeffrey said, but Ankara would not cooperate.

The former U.S. envoy also said Turkey needs to address with Russia its concerns over the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northeastern Syria.

The U.S. failed in convincing Turkey of its stance on the YPG, Jeffrey said, noting that this was something that upset Washington.

The Kurdish-majority YPG militia in Syria has played a vital role in the U.S.-led coalition’s ground operations against the Islamic State (ISIS). But Turkey views the YPG as a PKK offshoot - thus a threat to national security – and has conducted three campaigns into Syria to push the group south from the Turkish-Syrian border region.