Biden cold-shoulders Erdoğan after requests for call go unanswered - report

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is yet to respond to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s request for a phone call a week before he enters the White House, Middle East Eye reported on Thursday, citing three people familiar with the matter.

Erdoğan’s government made the proposal to Biden’s team last month but nothing has been arranged, MEE said. He was among the last world leaders to congratulate Biden for his election victory against incumbent President Donald Trump, with whom Erdoğan shares warm relations, it said.

The delay suggests Biden, who has been a critic of Erdoğan, will not be in a rush to turn a new page, the news website said.

Biden and Erdoğan have a history of political spats. Towards the end of the Obama administration, the then vice president had to apologise twice to Erdoğan for angering him: once over blaming Turkey for bolstering the Islamic State (ISIS) through its policies and a second time for allegedly not showing support for the Turkish government after it survived a coup attempt in 2016.

Biden’s positive approach towards Turkey shifted in the years following the failed coup. He slammed the country’s military offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish militias in northern Syria in 2019 and suggested supporting opponents of Erdoğan in a video published by the New York Times.

“Everyone understands the importance of Turkey for this part of the world, and the Biden administration, too, will seek to have a problem-free relationship with Ankara,” Asli Aydıntaşbaş, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), told MEE. “But there are outstanding issues and a toxic narrative in bilateral ties.”

The new U.S. administration’s first instinct will be to establish a little distance in the relationship, she said. “Neither uphold Turkey as a model for the region nor target Turkey as a geopolitical troublemaker. Just neutrality and distance.”