NATO protects 30 percent of Turkish airspace, we need S-400s: Turkey’s top diplomat

NATO protects 30 percent of Turkish airspace, we need S-400s: Turkey’s top diplomat

Sevil Erkuş - BRUSSELS
NATO protects 30 percent of Turkish airspace, we need S-400s: Turkey’s top diplomat

Western allies should no longer question Turkey’s procurement of the Russian S-400 air defense systems, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said, reiterating that the first batch of batteries will be deployed to Turkey by Moscow at the end of 2019. He also stressed that the current NATO anti-ballistic system can only cover 30 percent of Turkish airspace, which is why Turkey needs Russian made batteries.

“New batteries will arrive towards the end of next year. There is finally no need to question this anymore,” he told reporters on July 11 as he arrived in Brussels to accompany President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

His comments came ahead of a summit of NATO leaders, who often express concerns about Turkey’s purchase of the Russian anti-missile systems that may “negatively influence the interoperability of the alliance.” The United States, meanwhile, threatens to introduce punitive measures as a response to when the system is delivered to Turkey.

Recalling that not only the U.S., but some other NATO allies are also worried about the deal, the minister said Ankara understands their technical concerns, “as if the S-400 systems will detect the NATO systems as their foe.”

“We are already sensitive about the issue. We have set forth our conditions during the process of purchase,” he said.

Çavuşoğlu further reiterated Ankara’s position in regards to purchasing Russian made air defense systems at a panel he attended as a speaker by the Atlantic Council.

“NATO can protect only 30 percent of our airspace. Who will protect my nation in case of an attack by the Assad regime [in Syria] or from elsewhere?” Çavuşoğlu said, once again underlining that augmenting national air defense is a matter of urgency for Turkey’s security.

“We could not obtain these systems from our allies. Russia has approached us with the best offer. Now, we are purchasing [these systems] from Russia,” he said, stressing that this was a technical decision and not a political one.

“No, Turkey is not moving anywhere. Turkey is a NATO ally, a part of Europe and member of various European institutions. Turkey has been trying to become a member of the European Union for 60 years,” said Çavuşoğlu, refuting claims over Turkey moving away from the Western world.

Turkey is not in a position to seek alternatives to its main foreign policy pillars and needs to pursue a balanced foreign policy like Ukraine and other countries in the region, the minister stated.

Challenges on anti-terror fight

Çavuşoğlu emphasized the global fight against terror as the number one priority of the entire world, as all countries are under threat from terrorism regardless of their geopolitical locations.

“We need unity more than ever against all these challenges,” he said, urging all countries, particularly in Europe, over the rise of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianophobia, as well as intolerance and hate.

Some NATO countries still support terror organizations and stand with them, he said, calling all members to question how the People’s Protection Units (YPG) could take control of Manbij in northern Syria and how it controls around 25 percent of Syrian territories.

“We should therefore avoid double standards on all these issues and on the fight against terror,” said the foreign minister.