June 26, 2018 / 3:41 PM / 24 days ago

Trump, Erdogan agree to improve ties after Turkish leader's re-election

ANKARA (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday on his victory in Sunday’s presidential election and the two leaders agreed to improve bilateral defence and security ties, Erdogan’s office said.

FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters from the balcony of his ruling AK Party headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, early June 25, 2018. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

Ties between the NATO allies have been strained over a host of issues in recent months, including Washington’s support for Kurdish fighters in Syria and defence procurements.

Earlier this month, Ankara and Washington agreed on a plan for the withdrawal of the Kurdish YPG militia from the northern Syrian city of Manbij, a move long sought by Ankara. Turkey views the U.S.-backed YPG as a terrorist organisation.

In their phone conversation, Trump and Erdogan emphasised the need to implement the endorsed plan on Manbij and agreed to work together in the fight against terrorism, the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

Trump and Erdogan will meet in Brussels for a NATO summit on July 11-12, the statement added.

Turkey has annoyed the United States with its detention of a U.S. Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson, on terrorism charges and with its decision to procure S-400 missile defence systems, which are incompatible with those of NATO, from Russia.

A U.S. Senate committee last week passed a spending bill including a provision to block Turkey’s purchase of Lockheed Martin F-35 jets, citing the S-400 deal and Brunson’s detention. He has denied the charges against him.

Turkey was also infuriated by the sentencing of a former Turkish state bank executive last month in New York to 32 months in prison for taking part in an Iran sanctions-busting scheme, a case Ankara has branded a political attack.

Erdogan won a fresh five-year term in Turkey’s presidential election on Sunday, also securing sweeping new powers under a constitutional overhaul approved by a narrow majority of Turks in a referendum last year.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Gareth Jones

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