Biden must tread lightly with Turkey's Erdoğan - analyst

The administration of U.S. president-elect Joe Biden must tread lightly in dealing with the Turkish government, wrote Christopher Miller, a researcher specializing in U.S. foreign policy and global politics, in the Jerusalem Post on Saturday.

One of the most pressing foreign policy objectives of Biden, who at the very least suspects the Turkish president of being “a staunch Islamist and secret terror supporter,’’ will be Washington’s engagement with the Turkish leader, Miller said.

Analysts expect Erdoğan to face tougher action with Biden over issues Donald Trump failed to tackle, such Ankara’s purchasing the Russian-made S-400 missile defence system and its dispute with Greece and Cyprus over natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.

While Turkey’s moves on a number of fronts are contrary to U.S. interests, Miller wrote, Washington must not “further alienate’’ Ankara from the West, or over-exert pressure on Turkey that could “trigger flashpoints in Turkish-American relations and drive Erdogan into further solidifying ties with US adversaries the likes of Iran, Russia and China.’’

Miller pointed to the important implications of maintaining good relations with Turkey for America’s strategic aims, including the country’s role as a business and commerce hub and Ankara’s potential role in furthering diplomatic progress in the Gulf and in the Arab world.

Earlier this week, Erdoğan signalled dialogue with the Biden administration.

“I know Biden very well. ... In fact, he is someone who has visited me at my home,” Erdoğan told reporters in Ankara on Wednesday. “We find the steps that they have taken or the statements made concerning our weapons purchases to be unbefitting. We will sit and talk with Biden after he takes up his duties.”

“The next administration can and must take advantage of regional shifts, which include both the new Middle East alliances as well as Turkey’s own floundering economy, as an opportunity to offer cooperation and develop better relations with the Turkish government,’’ Miller said.