US, NATO praise Turkey's 'key' role in alliance

US, NATO praise Turkey's 'key' role in alliance

ANKARA-Anadolu Agency
US, NATO praise Turkeys key role in alliance

U.S. President Donald Trump and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Dec. 3 stressed Turkey's "key role" in fighting ISIL terrorists in Syria.

Speaking in a joint press conference in London ahead of a two-day NATO summit, they stressed the "very good relationship" with Ankara in terms of the alliance.

Additionally, Trump said he has a good personal relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Praising Turkey's role in the Oct. 26 operation that led to the death of ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Trump said: "And I will say this, three weeks ago when we got Al-Baghdadi, Turkey was very helpful. And we flew over areas that were totally controlled by Turkey and the Turkish military. We said we are coming. They absolutely were very supportive.

"Actually, we didn't tell them what we were doing and where we're going. Turkey could not have been nicer could not have been more supportive."

Stoltenberg, for his part, added: "Turkey has been enormously important in our joint efforts to fight ISIS."

The NATO chief stressed that the coalition to defeat ISIL has been able to liberate territories under control of the terrorist group by using infrastructure based in Turkey.

"So, in the fight against ISIS, Turkey has played a key role," he added.

F-35 fighter jets

Addressing the controversy over Turkey buying Russian S-400 defense systems, Trump said Ankara had good reason, as when the U.S. refused to sell Turkey Patriot missiles it had to seek other sellers.

"They tried to buy ours and the Obama administration said you can't have them," he said. "And they said that a number of times and then Turkey went out and bought the Russian missile."

"So we'll see what happens. We're still talking about it. But they wanted to buy the Patriots. They tried to buy the Patriots. I think most of you
 know that. And they were shut off from buying the Patriots. They were not allowed to buy it," he added.

Mentioning the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program, which Turkey was suspended from over the S-400 purchase, Turkey bought "billions and billions worth of F-35 fighter jets, it was one of the largest orders," Trump said.

If the U.S. refuses to deliver the F-35s, Turkey will have to explore other avenues, he added.

Stoltenberg urged continued talks between the U.S. and Turkey to solve the issue.

This July Turkey's acquisition of the advanced Russian air-defense system prompted the Trump administration to remove Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program. The U.S. claims the system could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified details on the jet and is incompatible with NATO systems.

Turkey, however, counters that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.

Turkish officials have also proposed setting up a commission to study the issue, but has yet to get a positive response from the U.S.

Macron's 'brain dead' comment 'disrespectful'

Trump also slammed his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron's "brain dead" comment on NATO, saying it was "insulting" and "very disrespectful".

"I heard that President Macron said NATO was brain dead. I think that's very insulting to a lot of different courses," Trump said.

"When you have such difficulty in France, you look at what's happened with the Yellow Vests. You look at what's going on during certain parts of this season. They've had a very rough year, and you just can't go around making statements like that about NATO. It's very disrespectful," he said.

"Nobody needs NATO more than France," Trump said.

He added it is "very dangerous" for France to make such comments.

Earlier in November, Macron called NATO "brain dead" in an interview with The Economist. He also expressed doubts on the applicability of the principle of collective defense, explaining that the U.S. showed signs of "turning its back" on its military allies as it had "demonstrated starkly with its unexpected troop withdrawal from northeastern Syria last month".

Macron isolated himself in NATO: Source
Macron isolated himself in NATO: Source

Talking on the tariff crisis between the U.S. and France, Trump said: "I'm not gonna let people take advantage of American companies. If anyone's going to take advantage of the American companies, it's going to be us. It's not going to be France.”

The Trump administration on Dec. 2 proposed tariffs on up to $2.4 billion worth of French imports, including cheese, lipstick, handbags and sparkling wine, in a tit-for-tat response to France's tax on American tech giants including Google, Amazon and Facebook.

Criticizing the lack of action by the former U.S. presidents, Trump also said he was pushing negotiations with South Korea and Japan, two American allies in the Asia Pacific, to up their spending in shouldering the cost of deploying U.S. troops in those countries.

Both Stoltenberg and Trump agreed on the importance of developing good relations with Russia. Additionally, Trump said Russia wants to make a nuclear arms control deal -- after the U.S. terminated an existing nuclear treaty between the two military competitors in early August.

The unilateral annulment of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, signed by former U.S. and Russian presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, meant the death of arms control efforts that took decades for nations to realize. The accord prohibited Washington and Moscow from fielding ground-launched cruise missiles that could fly between 310 and 3,400 miles.