Turkey receives first top US official ahead of Erdoğan-Biden meeting

Turkey received its first top U.S. official under the Biden administration ahead of a planned June 14 meeting between Erdoğan and Biden at the NATO summit. Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on May 29 held a meeting in Istanbul. Earlier in the day, Sherman visited Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew saying the United States values its partnership with the religious minorities in Turkey.

Kalın (2nd L) meets with Sherman (R) at the Dolmabahçe Mansion in Istanbul on May 29.

Duvar English

Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on May 29 held a meeting at the Dolmabahçe Office in Istanbul, discussing the agenda of the upcoming NATO summit planned for June 14.

They exchanged views on the issues Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden are expected to discuss on the sidelines of the summit in Brussels, according to a statement released by state-run Anadolu Agency.

Kalın and Sherman “agreed that Turkey and the U.S. should continue joint efforts to maintain peace and stability in regions, including Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and Ukraine,” Anadolu Agency said.

Sherman’s visit comes as part of a diplomatic tour that includes countries in Europe and Southeast Asia. She has become the first senior American official under the Biden administration visiting Turkey.

US Deputy Secretary of State meets Ecumenical Patriarch

Earlier in the day, Sherman met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during a visit to the Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul. Sherman here spoke about the U.S.' respect for the historic institution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its international role as well as religious freedoms around the world. 

“I am today honored to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew, a leader who is respected by the Orthodox world that has a population of over 300 million people worldwide,” Sherman said in her remarks. 

Bartholomew and Sherman
 Sherman met with Bartholomew in Istanbul on May 29. 

She also tweeted about her visit saying the United States values "its partnership with the Orthodox community worldwide and religious minorities in Turkey and the region."

For his part, Bartholomew said that he will pay a visit to the United States in October, during which he plans to meet with Biden. “We have a good relationship with him. He had visited the Patriarchate two times when he was the U.S. Vice President,” Bartholomew said. 

Sherman meets with Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister and civil society leaders 

On May 28, Sherman was in the Turkish capital Ankara, where she met with Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal and civil society representatives.

She described her meeting with Önal as “productive,” saying on Twitter: “We appreciate Turkey’s continued support to over 4 million refugees. We also discussed the importance of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also released a statement saying the two officials “confirmed the strategic nature of Turkey-US relations, exchanged views on regional issues and underlined the importance of the fight against terrorism.”

Sherman also met civil society representatives in Ankara on May 28, after which she posted a photo on Twitter. “The U.S. is unwavering in our commitment to human rights, including gender equality, empowering women and girls, and protecting LGBTQI+ rights,” she wrote.

In a tweet, Sherman also touched upon Turkey's recent withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, deeming the decision “disappointing.”

“Turkey’s sudden withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention was deeply disappointing. With gender-based violence on the rise globally, it is more important than ever for all of us to support the rights of women worldwide,” she wrote.

In March, Erdoğan annulled Turkey's ratification of the Istanbul Convention, prompting protests and criticism from those who said it was necessary to tackle rising domestic violence.

The Council of Europe accord, called the Istanbul Convention, pledged to prevent, prosecute and eliminate domestic violence and promote equality. Turkey signed it in 2011 but femicide has surged in the country in recent years.