Turkish president vows no concession on S-400s

Turkish president vows no concession on S-400s

Mehmet Soysal-ISTANBUL

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reiterated that concession on the procurement of S-400 air defense systems from Russia was out of question, in a statement he made after a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Tajikistan.

The delivery process will begin in the first half of July, he added.

“Our decision is clear: no concession on S-400s. I always keep saying, this is not a banana republic. We have put our signatures and accomplished everything (with regards to a deal with Russia). Russia, for its part, has made things easier for a credit and provided an interest rate (much less) than international rates. After all these, stepping back from this does not suit our state culture,” President Erdoğan told journalists on his return from the security summit in Tajikistan over the weekend.

On the sidelines of the Fifth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) that was held in Dushanbe on June 14 and 15, Erdoğan held bilateral talks with participating leaders. They included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iran’s President Hasan Rouhani, President Xi Jinping of China, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan and Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar.

Erdoğan explained that in his meeting with Putin, they discussed the sale of the S-400s, saying: “This is already done, and everything is going fine.”

In the interview, Erdoğan was responding to a question on whether Turkey would reconsider deploying S-400s after the United States harshly threatened its NATO ally with sanctions, including ceasing the Turkish participation in the F-35 aircraft project.

We have done our share on F-35s

In a letter sent to Ankara on June 6, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan informed Turkey that its participation in the F-35 project and the training of the Turkish pilots will be terminated by July 31 if Turkey does not change its course on the S-400s. Erdoğan said Turkey’s Defense Ministry will reply to Shanahan probably next week.

“My words on F-35s will be no different. We have always done our share. We have precisely paid our installments. We have transacted $1.250 billion so far. If we do our share, we expect the same from the other side. We have received four F-35s. They are now in Arizona. We have dispatched our general and our pilots are being trained,” Erdoğan said.

“But when it comes to sending our aircrafts, they are committing a mistake there,” added Erdoğan, slamming the U.S. decision not to deliver the F-35s to Turkey.

Drawing attention to divergence between the U.S. President Donald Trump and the Pentagon on this matter, Erdoğan stated: “These are not right. We will show patience up to a point. We will have a comprehensive meeting with Mr. Trump on the sidelines of a G-20 summit. We will discuss all these issues.”

Erdoğan also hinted that a phone conversation with Trump might be possible until their in-person meeting.

NATO allies should resolve this issue

On a question of whether he hopes that a solution would be found on this disagreement, Erdoğan said, “At least, I want to believe. Because both Turkey and the U.S. are NATO allies. Turkey constitutes the strongest part of NATO and is one of few countries that makes its payments to NATO orderly. Many others do even not make payments or are making very low payments. Would a strategic partner do wrong against its partner? It should not.”

Meeting with Putin

While informing about his talks with Putin, Erdoğan appreciated the level of bilateral relationship between Ankara and Moscow, which have already decided to boost the volume of trade from $25 billion to $100 billion.

“Our relationship with Russia is progressing intensively. We will hold the inauguration of the Turkish Stream by the end of this year. This is another strength (in our ties). Natural gas will be flown through this pipeline via Turkey. This is very important. We will also supply our additional needs from it,” Erdoğan stressed.

Turkish-Russian cooperation includes the building of the former’s first nuclear plant, the president said.

Turkey, China eye $50 billion trade

Erdoğan also met with Xi Jinping of China at the summit, ahead of his planned trip to China in early July following the G-20 summit in Japan.

“We aim for the sky with China. I have proposed to Mr. Jinping to increase our trade volume to $50 billion,” he said.

“We have discussed what steps we can take in our export-import. In all these steps we will take with China, it’s very important that Chinese investment enters into Turkey,” the president added.
Erdoğan reiterated the importance Turkey attaches to China’s One Belt One Road project and highlighted the construction of the Kars-Edirne railway, which stretches from Turkey’s eastern borders to the west.

China attaches very much importance to this project as it is part of its One Belt One Road project. Not only Kars-Edirne railway, China has an interest to many other railway projects in Turkey. I am of the belief that we will find the opportunity to accomplish many railway projects with them,” he stated.

On a question about the recent intensification of the Syrian regime’s attacks, Erdoğan said they did not discuss these issues in his meetings with Rouhani and Putin.

The Turkish President has also commented on French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent statement that Turkey should halt its drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Those who have a right to say something on the eastern Mediterranean may speak. But where does this right come from to France? Does it have a shore on the eastern Mediterranean? What France is doing is trying to build castles in the air,” Erdoğan stated.

Turkey is one of three guarantor countries, and French officials would respect the other two, Greece and the United Kingdom, if they spoke about the matter, Erdoğan maintained.

“But how about France? If you are to refer to the activities of Total’s agreements, then you should allow Total to speak about it,” he stressed, adding that international law stipulates fair revenue sharing for both communities of the island.

“Mr. Macron is really a rookie on these businesses. He still could not adjust to this job. A lot of time will pass until he will settle in his job,” he added.