Turkey’s differences with US on YPG, S-400 endure

Turkey’s differences with US on YPG, S-400 endure

The ongoing Afghanistan crisis is certainly the most important issue as the fragile situation in this country could cause further humanitarian tragedies and instability beyond its borders. Turkey is in talks with Qatar for the resumption of commercial flights to the international airport in Kabul and intensely in dialogue with the United States over Afghanistan-related matters.

U.S. officials have hailed the role Turkey has been playing during the major evacuation from Kabul and voiced their support over its willingness to operate the airport. But, still, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has not added Ankara to his regional itinerary, which includes Qatar and Germany. In Germany, he will probably hold a virtual meeting with some colleagues and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is likely to be on the invitee list.

This is reminiscent of the current problems between the two allies, despite the relative reconciliation in relations. In a televised interview on Sept. 7, Çavuşoğlu confirmed that the differences between the two countries on two key issues remain.

Syria comes first. Criticizing the U.S. for lending support to the PKK/YPG in northeastern Syria whose objective is to disintegrate Syria, Çavuşoğlu said, “‘There is oil, I stay here.’ There is no such thing. The U.S. should abandon these policies.”

The U.S. has no borders with Syria and has not been invited as a foreign force, the minister stated, claiming that some members of ISIL were transferred to Afghanistan from Syria by the Americans.

In an interesting remark, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey and Syria were – for now — on the same page concerning the separatist agenda of the PKK, informing that the two countries’ intelligence services may meet to discuss terror and security-related issues although Ankara does not recognize the regime in Damascus.

On a question about reports of a looming meeting between Hakan Fidan, director of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT), and Ali Mamlouk, Syrian national security director in Baghdad, Çavuşoğlu neither denied nor confirmed but said it was natural for the intelligence officials to stay in touch under all circumstances. It will be important to observe whether such a meeting can take place and what consequences it can produce.

On the S-400s and reports that Turkey and Russia are discussing the acquisition of the second batch of the air defense systems, Çavuşoğlu explained that U.S. President Joe Biden knows this issue very well as he was serving as the Vice President when this matter came up. “The S-400s are a done deal. The U.S. should accept it,” he said, reiterating that “We must look at the future of our relationship with the U.S. We want existing problems to be resolved not by unilateral imposition, but in a way that is beneficial or acceptable to both parties.”

Turkey can still purchase air defense systems from the U.S. although they are more expensive because the country needs them, Çavuşoğlu said, underlining that Washington should ensure that the sale will be authorized by Congress.

Having said all these, Turkish officials do not confirm the validity of the statements from Russian authorities on the continued negotiations for the delivery of the second batch of the S-400s. Yet Çavuşoğlu’s remarks prove that the problem over the S-400s remains as a potential spoiler of the Turkish-American dialogue.