Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned that the United States risked “losing a precious friend” if it tries to corner his country, speaking two weeks before his first meeting with US counterpart Joe Biden.
Already tense, relations between the two NATO states have further deteriorated since Biden replaced Erdogan’s ally Donald Trump in January, with the new president making a point of highlighting Turkey’s dire human rights record.
When asked about Ankara-Washington relations, Erdogan said in an interview with Turkish state broadcaster TRT on Tuesday that “those who corner the Republic of Turkey will lose a precious friend”.
Erdogan’s combative stance comes ahead of the first meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels on June 14.
Biden was in no rush to speak with the Turkish leader after taking office, waiting three months before calling Erdogan in April.
That call was also on the eve of Biden’s historic decision to recognise the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman empire during World War I, a move that outraged Turkey which rejects that term.
“What is the reason for our tensions (with the US)? The so-called Armenian genocide,” Erdogan said on Tuesday.
“Don’t have you have any other problems to deal with rather than advocating for Armenia?”
He also listed several issues that have strained relations since 2016, including US support for Kurdish militias in Syria that Turkey deems “terrorists”.
“If the United States is indeed our ally, should they side with the terrorists or with us? Unfortunately, they continue to support the terrorists,” he said.
Erdogan had previously indicated he intended to mend ties with Biden, last week saying their meeting will be a “harbinger of a new era” in US-Turkey relations.
On Tuesday Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, said he has always managed to work with the person in the White House “whether he is a Republican or a Democrat”.