U.S., Turkish officials hold political talks in Washington D.C.


Turkey is sending a top diplomat to the United States for political consultations as part of efforts by the two countries to repair fraught ties.

Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal starts a two-day trip to Washington D.C. on Thursday. He will meet with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland during the visit, the Turkish government said in a statement.

“Bilateral relations, regional issues and international developments are planned to be discussed in the framework of comprehensive political consultations to be held between the delegations during the visit,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

Relations between the two NATO countries have reached the lowest point in decades after Turkey fought Kurds allied with the United States against Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) and bought S-400 air defence missiles from Russia. Former U.S. President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defence industry in January after Ankara refused to mothball or return the missiles that it purchased in 2019.

President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met at a NATO summit in Brussels in mid-June to discuss how to mend relations. An agreement in principle that Turkey would continue to provide security at the international airport in Kabul after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan raised hopes of an improvement in ties. But the Taliban’s earlier than anticipated seizure of the capital has scuppered those plans.

Önal’s visit will precede a trip by Erdoğan to the United States on Sept. 19-22 to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, where he will make a speech. Erdoğan will also hold meetings with some leaders, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported last week.

On Wednesday, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said he hoped efforts by Turkey and Qatar to prepare Kabul airport for the resumption of commercial flights would soon succeed. He praised Qatar for laying on charter flights that allowed individuals to leave Afghanistan.

“I know that the Turks and the Qataris, and if you listen to what the Taliban are saying publicly, the Taliban as well want to see not only charter flights, but normal commercial activity resumed at Kabul International Airport on an expedited basis,” Price told reporters. “And it’s our hope that that will be able to happen in the not-too-distant future.”

Turkey and Qatar are holding discussions with the Taliban about operating the airport. The Taliban says it will provide security at the facility; a plan Turkey has opposed.

A State Department schedule published on Wednesday showed no public appointments scheduled for Sherman and Nuland on Thursday.

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