Turkey and the US held their largest joint military exercises in at least seven years, a sign of improving ties as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks another meeting with Joe Biden next month.
(Bloomberg) — Turkey and the US held their largest joint military exercises in at least seven years, a sign of improving ties as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks another meeting with Joe Biden next month.
The past week’s drills, along with a visit from a bipartisan Congressional delegation, show both sides seeking to rebuild their longtime alliance, said three Turkish officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. Turkey is seeking to arrange a meeting between Erdogan and the U.S. president on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in New Delhi, following one in Lithuania last month, said the officials, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Turkey sees the joint military exercises as recognition by Washington of Ankara’s importance as a NATO ally in a region criss-crossed by conflicts, the officials said. Erdogan last month dropped his long-held opposition to Sweden’s NATO membership in a bid to improve ties with the US and buy American-made F-16 fighter jets.
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The USS Gerald R. Ford, the world’s largest aircraft carrier, visited the Turkish port city of Antalya last week. Joint naval and combat drills involving Turkish F-16 and US F-18 jets marked the largest joint exercises since bilateral ties hit a low in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt against Erdogan in 2016, Turkish officials said.
American officials invited Erdogan’s son-in-law Selcuk Bayraktar, who has led Turkey’s development of Bayraktar drones, to the aircraft carrier in a symbolic gesture.
Meanwhile, the bipartisan congressional delegation, including Representatives Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Dean Phillips of Minnesota and Victoria Spartz of Indiana, held talks in Ankara on Friday.
Turkey was sanctioned by the US over its acquisition of Russian S-400 missile-defense system in 2017 and kicked out of the Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 stealth jet program, making the F-16 purchase critical to its air force.
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