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FM says joint working group to be established with US to discuss disagreements

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has announced that a working group will be established between Turkey and United States to discuss a wide range of disagreements between the two countries.

The minister said during a speech in parliament on Thursday that the proposal for the establishment of a joint working group came from the US administration.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Rome on Oct. 31 where they pledged to improve bilateral ties following a particularly tense period between Washington and Ankara.

Çavuşoğlu said the US collaboration with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political arm of the main Syrian Kurdish militia, and the People’s Protection Units (YPG); the presence of the Gülen movement members in the US, who are sought by Turkey; and sanctions imposed on Turkey due to its procurement of a Russian missile defense system do not befit the sprit of the alliance between the two countries.

The Turkish government sees the PYD and the YPG, with which the US has been cooperating against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, as well as the PKK as terrorist organizations.

The PKK, which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s Southeast since 1984, is also listed as a terrorist organization by the US and the EU.

The Turkish government also recognizes the Gülen movement, inspired by the views of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, as a terrorist organization, accusing the group of masterminding a failed coup in the country in 2016. The Gülen movement, which has been subjected to an ongoing crackdown by the government for years, denies involvement in the coup attempt and any terrorist activity.

Despite warnings from the US and other NATO allies, Erdoğan brokered a deal worth $2.5 billion with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the S-400 missile system in 2017. In response, Washington removed Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, in which Ankara was a manufacturer and a buyer.

The S-400, a mobile surface-to-air missile system, could pose a risk to the NATO alliance as well as to the F-35, America’s most expensive weapons platform, according to Turkey’s Western allies.

“Mr. President clearly explained these issues during the meeting [with Biden]. We will establish a joint working group to discuss them. We said earlier that we made a proposal to the US about this, now, this proposal came from the US side, from the Biden side,” said Çavuşoğlu.

The minister added that the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the US Department of State are collaborating on the establishment of the working group and the issues to be discussed.

Shortly after the imposition of US sanctions on Ankara due to its purchase of the S-400 air defense system, Çavuşoğlu announced in December that Turkey and the United States were considering the formation of a joint working group to discuss the US sanctions. However, the US State Department denied in a later statement that Ankara and Washington were in talks to form a joint working group.

Washington imposed the sanctions on Turkey’s military procurement agency for its purchase of the system under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which mandates penalties for transactions deemed harmful to US interests.

Turkey’s Presidency of the Defense Industry (SSB), its chief İsmail Demir and three other officials were targeted by the sanctions, which include a ban on all US export licenses and authorizations to SSB as well as asset freezes and visa restrictions on Demir and the other individuals.

Washington still hopes to persuade its ally to “walk away” from the Russian system.

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