Turkey gave an impassive first reaction on Sunday to Joe Biden’s presidential win, with Vice President Fuat Oktay saying it would not change relations between the old allies although Ankara will keep pressing Washington on Syria and other policy differences.
Turkey stands to lose more than most other countries if Joe Biden is elected president since he is expected to toughen the U.S. stance against President Tayyip Erdogan’s foreign military interventions and closer cooperation with Russia.
Another major stumbling block is Washington’s refusal to extradite U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara says orchestrated a failed coup in 2016.
Speaking at an interview with broadcaster Kanal 7, Oktay said that while the friendship between President Tayyip Erdogan and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump had helped the countries tackle several of their issues, communications channels between Ankara and Washington would operate as before.
“Nothing will change for Turkey,” Oktay said. “The channels of communication will work as before, but of course there will be a transition period,” he said, adding Ankara would closely monitor Biden’s foreign policy approach.
He said Turkey would press the next U.S. administration to abandon support for Kurdish militant groups in Syria, and to extradite Gulen.
“We experienced a coup attempt. The person who carried this out is in the United States. There is nothing more natural than asking for his extradition,” Oktay said. “This is a process that began earlier and it will continue with this administration. We will increasingly continue our pressure,” he said.
“We hope that the United States does not continue working with a terrorist organisation or organisations,” he said, adding that Turkey would not refrain from taking action in Syria again if necessary.
Another lingering issue between the allies has been Turkey’s purchase of Russian missile defence systems, for which Ankara is facing U.S. sanctions. Trump’s administration has so far avoided imposing sanctions, and Oktay said on Sunday that Ankara hoped Biden’s administration would also refrain from unilateral steps.
“The new administration’s approach will surely affect us and interest us. We are following this very closely. Our expectation is that they refrain from unilateral approaches,” he said.
Erdogan has not yet commented on Biden’s victory.
Analysts say Turkey-U.S. ties could suffer under a Biden presidency. The lira TRYTOM=D3, which is already trading at a record low against the dollar, could come under more pressure.