Seeking deals not sanctions, Turkey's Erdogan attends Trump reception

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan met President Donald Trump at a reception in New York on Wednesday, the last day of a trip to attend the U.N. General Assembly that Erdogan had said would include meeting Trump to discuss buying U.S. Patriot missiles.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Turkey’s presidency said on Twitter that Erdogan had attended the reception and provided a picture showing the Turkish leader and his wife Emine with Trump and first lady Melania. It gave no other details and did not say whether the two leaders only met or also had talks.

Turkish markets have been watching Erdogan’s trip closely for any signs that a meeting between the NATO allies might be able to dispel the threat of U.S. sanctions over Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.

Washington says the S-400 is incompatible with NATO defenses and poses a threat to Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 stealth jet program, which Turkey was also planning to buy.

In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, Erdogan said he would discuss buying Patriot missiles with Trump when they met at the U.N. General Assembly.

Broadcaster CNN Turk reported on Tuesday that U.S. ambassador to Ankara David Satterfield recently gave a presentation at the presidential palace about a possible free-trade accord that would include Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program as well as the Patriot purchase.

Media reports also referred to steps to lower customs duties on steel and aluminum, and to an existing target of quadrupling bilateral trade between the two countries to $100 billion a year.

Before departing for New York on Saturday, Erdogan told reporters that he would also speak to Trump about the joint efforts between Ankara and Washington to establish a safe zone in northern Syria along the Turkish border.

In his speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Erdogan said establishing a “safe zone” in northern Syria will save millions of lives.

Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees and controls parts of northern Syria where it says 350,000 Syrians have already returned.

Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall