US committed to deepening cooperation with Turkey: Official
The U.S. is committed to deepening cooperation with Turkey, and the two countries have so many common interests, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs said.
Speaking exclusively to Anadolu Agency during her visit to Turkey, Karen Donfried said she is relatively new in her position and visiting Turkey as early in her tenure as she could is very important to her.
"And that reflects the fact that Turkey is such a longstanding and valued NATO partner. We share so many common interests, and there's so much we can do together. So I was eager to get to Ankara and start those conversations in person," she said.
Responding to a question regarding the dialogue mechanisms between the two countries, Donfried said the timing of her visit is "auspicious" because it came after the in-person meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Rome on the margins of the G20 Summit.
"That conversation led both to agree that we should deepen our dialogue on the many issues where we can work effectively together. So most of my conversations at the Foreign Ministry focused on that topic of how it is that we can fill out that conversation the two presidents had with a concrete proposal.
I'm very much looking forward to continuing that discussion," she said.
'Dialogue continues on a very regular basis between the US and Turkey'
Regarding whether there are any planned high-level visits from the US to Turkey after her visit, Donfried said, "there certainly will be continued opportunities."
Recalling the recent high-level Defense Group meeting in Washington, she said: "So I want to point out that this dialogue continues on a very regular basis between the U.S. and Turkey. And the next opportunity for that senior-level dialogue will be at the NATO foreign ministerial, which will take place in late November, early December. And certainly, our two foreign ministers will be working together in that NATO context on the very important agenda that unites us there."
Stating that the next NATO summit that will take place in June 2022 in Madrid will focus on a new strategic direction of the alliance for the next ten years, Donfried said: "I think that provides a wonderful opportunity for the U.S. and Turkey, together with all of our NATO allies, to think strategically about both the regional and global challenges that face us today."
'We are committed to deepening our cooperation with Turkey'
Donfried was also asked about the increase of the U.S. military presence in Greece, which caused discomfort in Turkey. A letter sent by the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after the signing of the National Defense Cooperation Agreement includes the wording "firm determination of the two countries against actions that threaten peace," which raises the issue of whether the United States is taking a position with Greece against Turkey.
"I am very sorry to hear that it caused concern in Turkey. That's because I think to deeper the US engagement in any NATO ally is a good thing. And the U.S. is equally interested in deepening our cooperation here in Turkey. Certainly, the purpose of my visit is to think together with our Turkish partners- how is it that the U.S. and Turkey can work more closely. And I think the cooperation with Greece should be seen absolutely in that light.
"You'll remember that when President Biden came into office, he talked about America being back and the United States wanting to deepen our engagement with our key allies, reinvigorate our alliances and partnerships, and that is very much the spirit of what the U.S. is doing with its Greek ally. And we are as committed to deepening our cooperation with Turkey," she added.
Responding to a question on Turkey's $1.4 billion payment for F-35 fighter jets and ongoing talks on the possibility of a refund or the sale of F-16s to Turkey, Donfried said, "the United States and Turkey have a robust defense relationship that has many facets to it."
She said the high-level Defense Group meeting in Washington this week covered a range of issues, including these topics.
"And I think the important thing here is that there is an ongoing process through which the United States and Turkey are working on these issues. And I am confident that working together, we will reach a resolution," she added.
Asked about the waiver of sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project and some media reports suggesting a waiver for India's purchase of Russia's S-400 air defense system, Donfried said there are "a lot of different pieces in the question that you just posed."
"And a Nord Stream 2, the legislation which the administration is responding to carries a different acronym, it's called PEESA [Protecting Europe's Energy Security Act]. And I won't go into the details of that."
"Then you mentioned CAATSA [Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act], with regard to Turkey, and the S400, and then CAATSA in a potential context of a deal with India," she said.
"On India piece, there have been no decisions made about that. So I think it's important to be clear about that. But then also, the legislative requirements of CAATSA are different with regard to an ally. So I think it's also important to understand that India and Turkey are treated differently in that legislation. So it's a complicated set of issues. But just to repeat that there's no decision on India. And I think we shouldn't put India and Turkey in the same basket when we think about CAATSA. And the fact that Turkey is a NATO ally of the United States, and the legislative implications of that are important to remember in that context."
Purchase of F-16s
Donfried said the U.S. welcomes Turkey's interest in the purchase of F-16s.
"And I know that there's a delegation going shortly to Washington to continue the conversation on this. And we will continue through this technical process to move this request forward," she added.