Ignored by Biden, Erdoğan desperate to get his attention - Business Insider

Despite desperate moves to get U.S. President Joe Biden’s attention, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not succeeding, the Business Insider said on Thursday.

Biden has not telephoned Erdoğan since his inauguration in January and may not have any contact with him for several months, Business Insider said. An upcoming trial of Turkey’s state-run Halkbank in a Manhattan court on charges of breaking sanctions on Iran may delay things further, it said, citing an EU diplomat.  

“Biden knows who has the real power in the relationship and might not call him until after the Halkbank trial, unless there's some sort of crisis,” the diplomat said.

Halkbank is accused by U.S. prosecutors of seeking to circumvent U.S. sanctions on Iran by laundering up to $20 billion on behalf of Iranian entities, committing bank fraud and concealing the nature of the illicit transactions from U.S. officials.

While Turkey denies that Halkbank or any government officials were complicit in such a scheme, prosecutors say Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab bribed high-ranking Turkish officials, including a minister, to help run the sanctions-busting programme.

Halkbank may be fined tens of millions dollars and could be barred from access to international money transferring systems, Business Insider said. That heightens the need for Erdoğan to repair relations with Washington, it said.

Trial proceedings were due to start this month, Business Insider said.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a former executive of Halkbank who was convicted and sentenced to 28 months in prison in the United States in 2018 for his role in the sanctions-busting scheme, resigned as the chairman of the Istanbul Stock Exchange on Monday, in a move that may be designed to placate the Biden administration, Business Insider said.

Since Biden’s inauguration, Erdoğan’s government has sought to repair ties with neighbours including Israel, Greece and Egypt. It also says it is prepared to store S-400 air defence missiles purchased from Russia in 2019 to help resolve a major obstacle in the way of better U.S-Turkish relations.

“Erdoğan's moves show a realisation that Biden would not turn a blind eye to his actions, as Trump did,” said one European diplomat cited by the news website.

"Now he needs to deal with Biden on several issues, but the one where Turkey is most obviously at fault remains on the table and about to be resolved in a public courtroom,” the diplomat said.