ANKARA- President Tayyip Erdogan said he will discuss the case of Turkish lender Halkbank with U.S. President Donald Trump during talks in Washington next week, broadcaster NTV and other media reported on Friday.
Erdogan’s visit comes as ties between the NATO allies are strained over a host of issues including Ankara’s offensive to drive Kurdish YPG fighters from a “safe zone” in northeast Syria, the threat of U.S. sanctions, and Halkbank.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Oct. 16 charged Halkbank with taking part in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran. Turkey has said the case is political, and Halkbank has denied the charges.
“We believe it will be beneficial to discuss certain issues that we tackled before and some that we did not during face-to-face talks on Nov. 13,” Erdogan told reporters on his return flight from Hungary, according to NTV.
The two countries have been at odds over Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 defense systems, which Washington says threaten its F-35 fighters jets. Turkey, which was both a customer and co-producer of parts for the fighter jets, faces potential U.S. sanctions and has been suspended from the F-35 program.
“Of course, we will discuss the safe zone in Syria and the return of refugees. We will discuss the S-400s, F-35s, our $100 billion trade volume issue. We will also discuss the battle with FETO and the Halkbank issue,” he said, referring to the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Ankara blames Gulen for orchestrating a 2016 failed coup, a charge he has denied, and has repeatedly demanded that Washington extradite him. Erdogan said last month that Turkey would not extradite criminals to the United States unless it received the cleric.
Turkish officials said earlier this week that Erdogan might call off the U.S. visit in protest at votes by U.S. lawmakers to seek sanctions on Turkey over its offensive into northeast Syria, and recognize mass killings of Armenians a century ago as genocide. But, the visit was later confirmed after a phone call between Erdogan and Trump on Wednesday.
On Thursday, less than a week ahead of his visit, Erdogan blamed the United States and Russia for failing to fulfill their part of a deal for the YPG, which Ankara views as a terrorist group, to leave a strip of land along its borders with Syria.
He told reporters on the return flight that he would discuss developments in Syria with Trump, and added that he would hold a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday to “form the basis” of his talks in Washington, according to NTV.