U.S., Turkey to continue dialogue on S-400 missile dispute

The United States and Turkey will hold further discussions to help resolve a dispute over Turkey’s acquisition of S-400 air defence missiles from Russia, a top U.S official said.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan failed to agree on a solution during a meeting on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels on Monday.

The issue has dogged relations between the two governments, led to sanctions against Turkey’s defence procurement agency and contributed to a slump in the value of the Turkish lira.

“There was not a resolution of the issue.  There was a commitment to continue the dialogue on the S-400.  And the two teams will be following up on that coming out of the meeting,” Jake Sullivan, Biden’s National Security Advisor, told reporters in a phone call on Thursday.

Relations between the United States and Turkey have deteriorated after Turkey procured the weapons from Russia in 2019. Washington has suspended Turkey from a programme to build and purchase the F-35 stealth fighter jet. The two governments also disagree on policies towards Syria, Libya and energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

Biden and Erdoğan will develop a plan to establish a Turkish military mission to secure the main airport in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul once a U.S. mission there ends, Sullivan said.

“The President and President Erdoğan agreed that they would work together to make this happen,” he said.

Ties between Washington and Ankara have “gone steeply downhill” on a working level since 2013/2014 and have become “transactional” in nature, James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, said this week. Biden and Erdoğan may set aside their problems to help repair ties, a strategy recommended by "many", he said.

Turkey’s lira, battered by a currency crisis in 2018, rallied ahead of the Biden-Erdoğan meeting as some investors bet that the two leaders would make progress on the S-400 issue. The lira has resumed its downward trajectory since Monday. It was trading 0.1 percent weaker at 8.72 per dollar on Friday, close to a record low reached at the start of June.

U.S. officials have threatened wider sanctions against Turkey should it fail to hand back the S-400s or go through with plans to purchase more.