Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his US counterpart Joe Biden on Thursday that mediation in the Ukraine-Russia war was important for Ankara, after senior diplomats from both sides held talks in Turkey.
Ankara has close ties with Moscow and Kyiv and on Thursday hosted a historic meeting between Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Russian Sergei Lavrov in the southern resort city of Antalya.
The talks did not lead to a breakthrough on a ceasefire or humanitarian issues, but highlighted Turkey’s role as a mediator in the two-week war.
Erdogan said being able to talk to both sides and be a “facilitator” in finding a resolution to the conflict was important to Turkey during a 45-minute phone call with Biden, according to the Turkish presidency.
The White House said President Biden “expressed his gratitude” for Turkey’s mediation efforts and the two leaders “reaffirmed their strong support” for Ukraine against Russian aggression.
According to the statement from the Turkish presidency, Erdogan also demanded the lifting of “unfair sanctions” imposed by Washington on his fellow NATO member in 2019 after Turkey adopted a Russian defense system.
Ankara is seeking to acquire 40 F-16 fighter jets and the necessary spare parts to maintain and upgrade its existing F-16 fleet.
Turkey spent $1.4 billion when it ordered F-35 stealth fighter jets, but the planes were not delivered after the United States froze the contract in 2019 over the purchase by Ankara of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
The system is seen as a threat to F-35 jets, prompting Washington to exclude Turkey from its cutting-edge military program.
Turkey has delivered combat drones to its ally Ukraine but also wants to maintain good relations with Russia, on which it depends closely for its tourism sector and its supply of wheat and energy.
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