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ANKARA: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday his US counterpart Antony Blinken invited him for talks on May 18, which would mark the first in three years between the NATO members that have taken steps to improve long-strained ties.

Ankara and Washington have jousted over several issues including Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 defences, which triggered US sanctions and Ankara’s removal from a F-35 fighter jet programme where it was a buyer and manufacturer.

Ankara has said those moves were unjust given it was unable to procure missile defences from NATO allies on satisfactory terms.

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Still, the two governments launched a joint mechanism this week to address frictions and boost cooperation, including a Turkish request to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing fleet.

Speaking in Brussels after a NATO meeting, Cavusoglu said talks on the F-16s were going well and he welcomed reports that the US administration sent a letter to Congress saying the sale would serve US interests and NATO.

“In order to hold a meeting at the foreign ministers level, Antony Blinken invited me to Washington on May 18, and we will evaluate this at that meeting,” he said.

Ankara and Washington also disagree over policies in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

Yet Turkey has ramped up engagement with Western allies since Russia invaded Ukraine. It has maritime borders and good ties with both Russia and Ukraine, and its efforts at mediating the conflict have been welcomed in the West.

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Cavusoglu added he and Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly agreed in Brussels to work to overcome an embargo imposed on Ankara that targeted some equipment, including for its armed Bayraktar TB2 drones. It has sold the drones to Ukraine despite Russian objections.

He also discussed with Italy’s foreign minister efforts to revive the procurement of SAMP-T air defence systems from the Franco-Italian Eurosam consortium, after talks between the Italian, French and Turkish leaders last month.

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