Türkiye's Erdogan postpones visit to the United States to meet with Joe Biden

Türkiye's Erdogan postpones visit to the United States to meet with Joe Biden

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan postponed a planned trip to Washington to meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House on May 9, according to a senior official familiar with the matter.

Turkey decided to postpone the visit, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying only that the delay was related to a change in Erdogan's schedule. A White House spokesman said a meeting was never announced. But officials from both countries privately confirmed the visit was planned.

Turkey and the United States will discuss a new date for Erdogan's visit, the senior official said, without giving further details. The US officials, who asked not to be identified, confirmed that the Turkish side abandoned the visit but that the Turkish president may want to come later at a more convenient time.

Planning for the meeting coincided with mutual efforts to boost trade and defense ties at a time when the war between Israel and Hamas continues in Gaza and after Iran and Israel attacked each other's territory, raising fears that it could be a broader conflict in the Middle East approaching. Turkey is a key US ally in the Middle East and also provides some military support to Ukraine against invading Russian forces.

The postponed meeting would come at a delicate time in their political careers. Biden faces a rematch with his 2020 opponent, former President Donald Trump, in the November election. A Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll this week found Biden ahead in just one of the seven states most likely to determine the outcome.

Erdogan, who has led Turkey since 2003, suffered an embarrassing defeat in municipal elections last month, and voters across the country turned against his AK party. Although it is not easy to draw parallels, in both countries inflation has contributed to a sense of pessimism and anger towards the governments in power.

Erdogan, however, continues to play a prominent role on the international stage. On Friday, for example, he hosted Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Istanbul, as Rutte sought the Turkish president's support to become NATO's next secretary general.

Last weekend, Erdogan met with the political leader of Hamas to discuss a possible permanent ceasefire and accelerate humanitarian aid to Gaza. Unlike the United States and the European Union, Türkiye does not consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Turkey and the United States recently held talks to improve security and energy ties and increase purchases of Turkish explosives to support Ukraine against Russia. The two countries confirmed their plans to jointly produce 155mm artillery shells, which Ukraine desperately needs against Russian forces, by next year. With the two largest militaries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, they have good reason to maintain their seven-decade alliance.

Even so, Ties have been strained for years over Turkey's acquisition of a Russian S-400 missile defense system and U.S. support for a Syrian Kurdish militia that Turkey views as a deadly threat, among other disputes.

The United States moved ahead with a $23 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets, missiles and bombs to Turkey after Ankara ratified Sweden's NATO membership in January.

Turkey now wants the United States to lift sanctions imposed on its defense industry over the S-400 system, which NATO members worry could pose a risk to advanced F-35 stealth fighter jets. Erdogan is expected to negotiate the refund of $1.4 billion that Turkey previously paid to the United States for the purchase of the plane.

US officials have long demanded that Ankara get rid of the S-400s, but Turkey has signaled it would prefer to keep them even if it means not being able to buy F-35s.