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Erdogan: I trust Russia and the West equally

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims that he trusts Russia as much he trusts the West.

Erdogan said that at his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he had failed to secure a renewal of the Black Sea grain deal, which the Kremlin abandoned in July. However, he was able to secure Russia’s promise to supply 1 million tonnes of grain to Africa. During an interview late Monday with PBS in New York, where Erdogan is attending the United Nations General Assembly, he added:

I have no reason not to trust them [Russia]. To the extent the West is reliable, Russia is equally reliable. For the last 50 years, we have been waiting at the doorstep of the EU and, at this moment in time, I trust Russia just as much as I trust the West.

Turkey continued to maintain close ties with both Russia and Ukraine during the 19-month war. Last July, Turkey and the UN struck a deal under which Turkey could safely ship Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports, helping to ease the global food crisis. The Russian side reneged on the deal two months ago, saying a parallel deal to allow food and fertiliser exports had not been honoured.

Speaking at an event Monday, the Turkish leader appeared to roll back comments he made immediately prior to his departure for New York, in which he suggested that Turkey could end its 24-year bid for European Union membership. According to a text of the meeting published by his office, Erdogan said:

We see that a window of opportunity has opened for the revitalization of Turkey-European Union relations in a critical period. We continue to emphasize the importance of revitalizing Turkey’s EU accession process.

Erdogan also indicated improving ties with Washington, which have recently focused on Ankara’s approval of Sweden’s NATO membership application and a possible deal to supply Turkey with F-16 fighter jets. He added:

We are pleased with the development of our cooperation with the U.S. We have resolved most of the deadlocks during the talks with Mr. Biden and we have decided to hold more talks in line with the positive agenda.

The only NATO members which have not approved Sweden’s application to join the alliance are Turkey and Hungary. The issue is due to come up for discussion in the Turkish parliament when it returns from recess next month. Some members of the U.S. Congress have indicated that the provision of F-16s to update Turkey’s fighter fleet is dependent on Ankara agreeing to Sweden’s NATO membership.

But Erdogan reiterated that “these two topics shouldn’t be related,” although he said the decision on Sweden lies with the Turkish parliament, where his party and its allies hold a majority. He told PBS:

If the parliament doesn’t make a positive decision about this bid, then there’s nothing to do.

Erdogan expressed his opinion on the situation in Ukraine, noting that “it is quite obvious that this war will last for a long time,” but the Russian leader “is on the side of ending this war as soon as possible.”

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