Biden tackles tough issues with Turkish leader on final day of G20

The two leaders met for about 55 minutes on the sidelines of the final day of the G-20 Summit, taking place this year in Rome.

Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile system was fiercely opposed by NATO and by Washington, and signaled a deepening relationship between Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden addressed these concerns directly with Erdoğan, a White House readout of the meeting stated, while also underscoring “his desire to maintain constructive relations, expand areas of cooperation, and manage our disagreements effectively.”

A senior administration official told reporters after the meeting: “The President also raised human rights issues, saying that this is a set of issues — democracy, rule of law, human rights — that are important to him. And that those are issues that he and his administration will continue to raise.”

The two leaders also discussed regional issues, including the political process in Syria, delivering humanitarian assistance to Afghans, elections in Libya, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and diplomatic efforts in the South Caucasus, the White House said.

Biden’s meeting with the Turkish President came ahead of meetings with world leaders focused on global supply chain issues. Biden will also hold his first solo press conference in months on Sunday.

The meeting on Sunday morning with Erdoğan was not previously on Biden’s public schedule and was relayed Saturday evening to reporters by a senior administration official. The sit-down came about a week after Erdoğan ordered 10 ambassadors — including those from the US, France, and Germany — be declared “persona non grata” after they released a joint statement calling for the release of jailed Turkish businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala.

Ahead of the meeting, Biden said he planned on having a “good conversation” with the Turkish President while standing beside him. Biden didn’t answer questions from reporters about whether he planned to raise human rights issues or whether he believed Turkey was too close to Russia.

Ahead of the meeting, an administration official told reporters in Rome: “Certainly, the President will indicate that we need to find a way to avoid crises like that one going forward, and precipitous action is not going to benefit the US-Turkey partnership and alliance.” The official added the two leaders are expected to discuss Libya, and their defense relationship.

Biden and Erdoğan last met one-on-one in June at NATO headquarters in Brussels, a meeting Biden called “positive and productive.” It was a closely watched meeting after Biden in April became the first US president in decades to recognize the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as a genocide — a move that risked a potential fracture with Turkey but signaled a commitment to global human rights.

Sunday’s events

According to the White House, the President will “host an event on global supply chain resilience through the pandemic and recovery on the margins of the G20, to coordinate with Leaders on both near- and long-term supply chain challenges and improve international coordination on all aspects of supply chain.”

He’ll also participate in two G20 sessions on climate and other sustainable development, according to the administration official.

Biden has so far skipped two of the more informal events arranged for G-20 leaders during this weekend’s summit in Rome.

The President did not attend a performance Saturday night held in the 1,700-year-old Baths of Diocletian, where most of the other leaders were treated to a performance of Puccini under soaring stone arches. Instead, the President attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Church with the first lady.

On Sunday morning, many G-20 leaders gathered at the Trevi Fountain and tossed coins over their shoulders into the water. Biden skipped the event, as he was about to meet with Erdoğan, who also did not attend.

Earlier this month, the IMF downgraded its 2021 US growth forecast by one percentage point — the most for any G7 economy — because of supply chain disruptions and weakening consumption. And as supply chain disruptions hiked prices for consumers and slowed the economic recovery, Moody’s Analytics warned that the disruptions “will get worse before they get better.”

Moody’s pointed to differences in how countries are fighting Covid-19, with China aiming for zero cases while the United States is “more willing to live with Covid-19 as an endemic disease.” The firm also cited the lack of a “concerted global effort to ensure the smooth operation” of the worldwide logistics and transportation network.

The administration official said Biden will “also have a couple of announcements related to our own national stockpile of critical minerals and metals, our own resources that we will be devoting to trade facilitation to reduce blockages at key ports around the world.”

“He’ll have a couple of other steps to announce tomorrow as well,” the official added.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday that the US expects some “solid outcomes” from Sunday’s supply chain meeting, which will include “a group of like-minded states from multiple continents to talk about how we can coordinate better to deal with both the short-term supply chain disruptions and challenges and long-term supply chain resilience.”

Biden coordinated with French President Emmanuel Macron on the matter during their bilateral meeting on Friday, according to a White House official.

Furthermore, Sullivan said the President is expected to make announcements about “capacity to have modern and effective and capable and flexible stockpiles.” The group is “working towards agreement with the other participants on a set of principles and parameters around how we collectively manage and create resilient supply chains going forward.”

The President will also hold a solo press conference Sunday afternoon ahead of Monday’s United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland. This will be Biden’s first solo press conference since the one he held in mid-June in Geneva, Switzerland, following a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden’s engagements with reporters have been somewhat limited throughout this first leg of his journey through Europe.

While the American press was allowed to ask questions in the room with Biden and Macron before their bilateral meeting Rome, they were entirely shut out of the President’s meeting with Pope Francis. Footage of the meeting from inside the walls of the papal state was distributed by Vatican Television.

CNN’s Matt Egan and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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