By Janet Ekstract – United Nations – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been keeping busy with a number of appointments in New York as he attends the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). On Monday, Erdogan met with representatives from U.S. think tanks and signed a Global Zero Waste Goodwill Declaration on the sidelines of the UNGA. The Turkish leader also met with President Biden, commenting that the majority of “deadlocks in Turkish-American relations” have been resolved. He also expressed his goal for Turkiye to act as a mediator in regional conflicts when he said: “We are working on reaching a ceasefire in all conflicts and increasing Turkiye’s positive agenda.” Erdogan is slated to meet with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but not firm date has been set yet, according to sources on both sides.
A significant meeting for Erdogan and Turkiye on Monday, was the Turkish president’s meeting with Elon Musk, requesting that he create a Tesla factory in Turkiye. He also discussed future collaboration between Musk’s space exploration firm SpaceX and Turkiye’s space program, according to Erdogan’s office. A statement issued by the president’s office said that Erdogan told Musk that Turkiye would appreciate cooperation on artificial intelligence and Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite internet service. Musk indicated to Erdogan that he wants to secure the necessary license to offer Starlink in Turkiye. Though Erdogan’s trip is proving to be productive, he arrived in New York a day after his government was accused by the U.S. of enlisting child soldiers in the ranks of Turkiye-backed rebels in Syria. The White House is also getting ready to impose sanctions on five Turkish companies and a Turkish individual for helping Russia evade sanctions, Reuters reported.
The conundrum for Turkiye is that the EU and the U.S. are pressuring Erdogan to join other allies in punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Though Turkiye has implemented the required U.N. penalties on Russia, Erdogan steadfastly refuses to participate in any other efforts to sanction Russia. Erdogan’s reason for doing so is that it could complicate Turkiye’s mediation efforts between Ukraine and Russia. These tensions are occurring while Erdogan hopes to secure the U.S. president’s support to purchase F-16 warplanes and upgrade kits for its existing fleet. The goal is to attract foreign investment in Turkiye whose economy has been waffling since the striking devaluation of the Turkish lira since January 2022. Further complicating matters is the comment that U.S. President Biden made on the sidelines to Erdogan at the G-20 Summit in India – making Turkiye’s approval of Sweden’s entry into NATO a prerequisite for selling F-16 warplanes to Turkiye. Erdogan is well aware that Turkiye’s accession into the EU would bring a plethora of investments into his country but said he may decide against it after an unfavorable report issued by the EU on a lack of democratic reforms in his nation. Meanwhile, Erdogan is expected to meet Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to further de-escalate tensions with Greece regarding the Mediterranean region. Also, Turkiye’s Treasury and Finance chief Mehmet Simsek is scheduled to address U.S. investors in New York on Tuesday.