Turkey vows no step back from S-400: Erdoğan
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reiterated that Turkey will not step back from its deployment of the Russian S-400 air defense systems while expressing his hopes that the standoff with the United States over this issue would be resolved through talks, a week after his talks with President Donald Trump in Washington.
“There are efforts to turn the S-400s into a key problem of the bilateral matters. We have agreed (with Trump) to seek ways to resolve the S-400 issue through our officials we have instructed,” Erdoğan told his Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary group on Nov 19. “We have told him that abandoning this defense system is unquestionable and that a solution to this matter should be found in the light of this reality.”
Insistence on this matter would be a breach to Turkey’s sovereignty, Erdoğan said, repeating his government’s intention to purchase Patriot air defense systems from the U.S.
Turkey has completed the transfer of the first S-400 batteries from Russia and announced that it will activate the air defense system in the spring next year. The U.S. is strongly against the Turkish decision to purchase and use Russian defense systems and has long been threatening Turkey with sanctions adopted by Congress in mid-2017. It has also excluded Turkey from the fifth-generation F-35 joint fighter project on the grounds that the Russian system would pose a big threat to the flight safety of the aircraft.
“We have mentioned about the unfairness over the F-35 aircrafts. First and foremost, Turkey is not just a buyer but a partner of the project. We have regularly made our payments for the project,” Erdoğan said, adding Turkey might seek other options if it’s excluded from the project.
Erdoğan has referred to ongoing talks between Turkey and Russia for a potential agreement on the sale of Russian Su-35 or Su-57 aircrafts.
No concrete solution to the problems
Erdoğan also shared his opinions about his meeting with Trump last week. Admitting that the Turkish-American bilateral ties are passing through a very difficult period, Erdoğan said the purpose of the meeting was to leave all these problems behind by running this period in a sustainable and reasonable way.
“Our latest visit was very beneficial to this end. We could not offer substantial solutions to many existing problems, but we have shown to the world that our ties were not taken as hostage by these issues,” he stressed.
Some anti-Turkish circles in the U.S. are exerting efforts to artificially exaggerate in order to give bigger damage to bilateral ties, Erdoğan stated, arguing that Trump sees this plot in a clear way. “That’s why he is using his own initiative in order to avoid further deterioration of Turkey-America ties despite pressure from the politics,” he added.
Erdoğan recalled the ongoing impeachment process on Trump and next year’s presidential elections and expressed his expectations that the U.S. president might follow a more reserved approach until all these are over.
Fight against PKK, not Kurds
Erdoğan said he also made clear that Turkey’s fight inside Syria is not against the Kurds, but the terror organizations, the PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the YPG, at a meeting with U.S. senators at the White House.
“We told them ‘Please don’t mix these two together. We are against the PKK, the YPG and the PYD and not our Kurdish brothers. Your words are just disrespect to our Kurdish brothers. Please, don’t do this, we told them,” he stressed.
The real reason why all these circles are furious against Turkey is because the Turkish military’s latest operation into Syria has broken their plans to siege Turkey from the south by establishing a terror corridor, Erdoğan stated.
The engagement of the U.S. with the YPG will not soon be over, Erdoğan said, but he stressed that the Turkish offensive has put the terror organization’s situation in the northeastern Syria into a much more difficult state.
“I repeat it once again: Our struggle in Syria and northern Iraq will continue until the last terrorist will be neutralized and even a slightest terrorist threat will be eliminated.”