Call me? US-Turkey reset faces long list of hurdles

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FILE- In this Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 file photo, then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left, poses for photographers with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, prior to their meeting at Yildiz Mabeyn Palace in Istanbul. Erdogan has toned down his anti-Western and anti-US rhetoric in an apparent effort to reset the rocky relationship with his NATO allies. So far, however, hes been met by silence from U.S. President Joe Biden. Nearly two months into his presidency, Biden still hasnt called Erdogan, which some in Turkey see as a worrying sign. (Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Press Service, Pool via AP, File)

ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has toned down his anti-Western and anti-US rhetoric in an apparent effort to reset the rocky relationship with his NATO allies, but so far he's been met by silence from U.S. President Joe Biden.

Nearly two months into his presidency, Biden still hasn’t called Erdogan, which some in Turkey see as a worrying sign. By contrast, former President Donald Trump and Erdogan spoke just days after the 2016 election.

Ties between Ankara and Washington — which once considered each other as strategic partners — have steadily deteriorated in recent years over differences on Syria, Turkey’s cooperation with Russia and more recently on Turkish naval interventions in the eastern Mediterranean, which U.S. officials have described as destabilizing.

Despite tensions, many within Erdogan’s government were hoping for four more years of the administration led by Trump, who had a personal rapport with Erdogan and didn’t give him any lectures about Turkey’s human rights record.

Biden drew ire from Turkish officials after an interview with the New York Times in which he spoke about supporting Turkey’s opposition against “autocrat” Erdogan.

In public statements, Turkish officials have played down the lack of a phone call from the White House, noting that conversations are happening at other levels, but a senior Turkish government official told The Associated Press that Erdogan’s office “is not thrilled” about it. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said last week that there were many world leaders Biden still hadn’t talked to and that she was sure he would call Erdogan “at some point.”

Left with few friends due to a spate of assertive foreign policy, anti-Western rhetoric and increasing authoritarianism, Turkey is now looking to attract foreign investments to rescue its troubled economy. Erdogan has been reaching out to the U.S., European nations and other former allies in a bid to patch troubled relations and end its international isolation.