Erdoğan urges better U.S. Congress, media understanding after aid shipments

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a letter to his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on Tuesday that he hoped the U.S. Congress would better understand the importance of their relations after Ankara shared supplies during the pandemic, Hürriyet newspaper reported.

“I hope that in the upcoming period, with the spirit of solidarity we have displayed during the pandemic, Congress and the U.S. media will better understand the strategic importance of our relations,” Erdoğan said in the letter.

Turkey extended a hand of friendship to the United States with a large shipment of medical supplies to help it fight the coronavirus pandemic, along with the Turkish president's letter.

"Mr President, Dear Friend, you know that I attribute great importance to the cooperation we have with you against the problems caused by the COVID-19 outbreak that has created a global crisis," Erdoğan said.

He said he hoped that they acted “in a way that our common fight against our common problems necessitates.”

Turkey's aid shipment marks a significant step toward rapprochement with the United States during a key month in Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems, one of the key issues that have held the NATO allies apart since the deal with Moscow was signed in December 2017.

After much display about the S-400s since the first shipment of missile components arrived in July last year, Erdoğan and Turkey’s government have gone quiet on the systems, which were due to be activated this month. A Turkish official told Reuters that the activation had been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At the same time, Turkey’s lira has taken a battering in recent weeks, leaving the central bank’s foreign currency reserves threadbare as it battles to hold the exchange rate below six to the dollar. Experts say a swap line with the U.S. Federal Reserve could be the most attractive option for Erdoğan, who has ruled out taking a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

The S-400s and a possible currency deal could be on the agenda if Trump agrees to the conversation Erdoğan in his letter proposed to hold at the earliest convenience.

In contrast to Trump’s permissive stance with Erdoğan, Congress has taken a tough line on actions like the S-400 purchase, and the House and Senate have drawn up several bills that threaten crippling economic sanctions on Turkey.