Turkey (AP) — Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, stated that he trusts Russia just as much as he trusts the West.
Erdogan explained his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin by saying that while he was unable to persuade him to restore the Black Sea grain agreement that the Kremlin pulled out of in July, he was able to secure a commitment from him to provide 1 million tons of grain to Africa.
Erdogan stated, “I have no reason not to trust them,” in an interview with American broadcaster PBS late on Monday in New York, where he is attending the U.N. General Assembly.
“To the degree that the West can be trusted, so can Russia. We have been waiting for the EU for the past 50 years, and right now, I have as much faith in Russia as I do in the West.
Throughout the 19-month conflict, Ankara has had tight connections with both Russia and Ukraine. Turkey and the U.N. negotiated a deal in July of last year to permit the safe export of Ukrainian grain from its Black Sea ports, easing a worldwide food crisis.
Moscow withdrew from the accord two months earlier, arguing that a separate agreement to let its shipments of food and fertilizer had not been upheld.
Four months after winning elections that gave him a five-year extension on his 20-year rule, Erdogan is in New York. There are indications that Ankara’s sometimes contentious relationship with the West is improving under his new mandate.
The Turkish president appeared to retract remarks he made on Sunday, just before leaving for New York, in which he hinted Turkey may abandon its 24-year quest to join the European Union. He was speaking at an event on Monday.
Erdogan stated, according to a transcript of the meeting released by his office, “We see that a window of opportunity has opened for the revitalization of Turkey-European Union relations in a critical period.”
“We continue to stress how crucial it is to revive Turkey’s EU accession process.”
Erdogan also mentioned strengthening ties with Washington, which have recently been centered on Ankara’s acceptance of Sweden’s bid for NATO membership and a potential contract to provide Turkey with F-16 fighter fighters.
Erdogan expressed satisfaction with the progress of their partnership. “During our discussions with Mr. Biden, we were able to break most of the deadlocks, and we have decided to hold additional discussions in line with the constructive agenda.”
Only Turkey and Hungary have rejected Sweden’s application to join NATO, which Stockholm submitted in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Turkish parliament will discuss the matter when it reconvenes after its break the following month.
According to certain members of the US Congress, the delivery of F-16s to modernize Turkey’s fighter force is contingent upon Ankara’s consenting to Sweden’s NATO membership.
The Turkish parliament, where Erdogan’s party and its allies hold a majority, will decide on Sweden, but Erdogan reaffirmed that “these two topics shouldn’t be related.”
There is nothing to be done, he said PBS, if the parliament does not approve of this bid.
Erdogan further distinguished between Sweden’s NATO aspirations and Turkey’s EU membership. But in July, he urged EU members to “open the way for Turkey” in exchange for opening Sweden’s route to NATO.
In his Monday statement to PBS, he said, “Sweden’s position and our current position within the EU accession negotiations are two separate things.”
Erdogan spoke about the conflict in Ukraine and his interactions with Putin, stating that it was “quite obvious that this war is going to last a long time” but that Putin was “on the side of ending this war as soon as possible.”
“He stated that, I believe. And I take his words at face value,” Erdogan stated.