Erdoğan, Biden hold first phone call amid tense Turkey-US relations

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden held a phone call on April 23, in a first-ever contact between the two leaders since the latter's inauguration in January. The Turkish Presidency and White House each released a statement saying the two leaders agreed to meet during the NATO summit in June, with no mention of if Biden will recognize the Armenian Genocide during his statement on April 24.

Duvar English 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Joe Biden held a phone call on April 23 and the two leaders agreed to meet during the NATO summit in June. 

"Both leaders agreed on the strategic character of the bilateral relationship and the importance of working together to build greater cooperation on issues of mutual interest," the Turkish Presidency said in a statement.

It said the two leaders agreed to meet on the margins of the NATO summit in June. 

Earlier, the White House issued a similar statement saying that Biden conveyed "his interest in a constructive bilateral relationship with expanded areas of cooperation and effective management of disagreements."

The phone call comes just a day before Biden is expected to formally recognize the massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War One as an act of genocide, but the White House statement made no mention of the issue. 

Bloomberg reported Biden had told Erdoğan that he intends to recognize the Armenian Genocide, citing people familiar with a call between the leaders.

The New York Times reported on April 21 that Biden will use the word "genocide" as part of his statement on April 24, similarly citing officials familiar with the internal debate. 

Erdoğan has toned down his anti-US rhetoric in an apparent effort to reset the rocky relationship with his NATO ally, but until the April 23 phone call, he was met by silence from Biden, which is seen as a worrying sign. By contrast, former U.S. President Donald Trump and Erdoğan spoke just days after the 2016 election.

Biden's move to recognize the massacre of Armenians as an act of genocide would be largely symbolic but would mean breaking away from decades of carefully calibrated language from the White House and come at a time when Ankara and Washington are already at loggerheads over a string of issues.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on April 21 told reporters the White House would likely have "more to say" about the issue on April 24, but declined to elaborate.

The State Department referred queries on the issue to the White House and National Security Council had no comment beyond what Psaki said.

A year ago, while still a presidential candidate, Biden commemorated the 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children who lost their lives in the final years of the Ottoman Empire and said he would back efforts to recognize those killings as a genocide.

"Today, we remember the atrocities faced by the Armenian people in the Metz Yeghern — the Armenian Genocide. If elected, I pledge to support a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide and will make universal human rights a top priority," he said on Twitter at the time.

Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests the figures and denies the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide.