Gov’t briefs opposition on S-400 ahead of Erdoğan-Trump meeting
The Turkish government has launched meetings with three parties in parliament to inform them about developments related with Turkey’s plans to deploy the Russian S-400 air defense systems days before President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is set to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Japan.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar paid visits to main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli and opposition İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener on June 24.
“We presented information on some issues to MHP leader Mr. Bahçeli. We listened to his opinion and suggestions. It was a nice exchange of information. I will also present this information to other chairpersons,” Akar told reporters after meeting with Bahçeli.
Akar’s move is seen as an attempt to get the backing of the opposition in the future phases of the Turkey-U.S. crisis. Harsh sanctions by the U.S. against Turkey are looming, as Turkey has repeatedly said that it will not back down from the procurement.
“Now we have been continuing exchanging views on the policies of the Turkish state. Our work continues,” he said, recalling that he will hold meetings with acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in Brussels on June 26 and 27.
The U.S. has made clear that it will impose sanctions on Turkey if the Turkish government goes ahead and deploys Russian air defense systems on its soils. In a letter sent to Akar on June 6, former acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan announced that Turkey will be excluded from the F-35 project if Turkey does not change its course on the S-400s. In a response letter, Akar slammed his counterpart for using a language that does not fit with the spirit of alliance.
All eyes will be on the meeting in Osaka, Japan on June 29 when Erdoğan will meet Trump in a face-to-face meeting in which the S-400/F-35 tension is expected to be discussed. Turkey expects a softer tone from Trump and even an exemption from congressional sanctions.
Erdoğan has already said that the first parts of the S-400s will be deployed in the first half of July under what he calls a “done deal” with Russia. Turkey dispatched a technical military team to Russia for training in May and a Russian team is expected to pay a visit to Turkey on June 28 and 30 to carry out examinations on the sites where the S-400s would be deployed.