Turkey will continue to ask the US to stop supporting the PYD/YPG terror group as it is affecting relations between the two countries, the Turkish presidential spokesperson said over the weekend.
“The US side must understand Turkey’s national security concerns regarding the PKK,” Ibrahim Kalin said in an interview with Bloomberg on Saturday, referring to the parent group of the Syria-based PYD/YPG.
“Our relationship can function in a very constructive way where we can empower each other mutually and can address joint issues or concerns together,” Kalin added.
US support to the PYD/YPG also threatens Syria’s territorial and political integrity and causes other tensions and problems within the country, he said.
If Washington and Ankara work with the "right partners,” there will be no need for the PYD/YPG, Kalin said, adding everyone knows this, including US officials.
"To have that relationship working for both sides, it has to be based on mutual respect and mutual interests. The US side must understand Turkey’s national security concerns regarding the PKK. We want to see concrete action by our allies."
Support for the YPG continues to be a concern for Turkey, he said.
Kalin emphasized that the main issues that harm Turkey-US relations are the case of the US support for the PYD/YPG, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) sanctions due to Turkey’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 defense systems, and the presence in the US of Fetullah Gulen, the leader of the FETO terror group, which orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 in which 251 people were martyred and 2,734 injured.
He said that unfortunately, not much progress has been made or actions taken on these issues so far.
The YPG and its political wing, the PYD, are the Syrian offshoots of the PKK, a designated terrorist organization in the US and Turkey. In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
Turkey has repeatedly objected to US support for its "reliable ally" the PKK/PYD in Syria, including the supply of arms and equipment.
‘Constructive dialogue’ on S-400 issue
Addressing US objections to Turkey acquiring missile defense systems from Russia, Kalin said Turkey could acquire the US-made Patriot missile system in addition to Russia's S-400 system.
"We believe we can have the Patriots. We can have these S-400s that will not be integrated into the NATO defense system," he added, rebuffing concerns that the S-400s would compromise the alliance’s defenses.
Kalin stressed that such issues can be resolved through "constructive dialogue, by being open and candid," but added that US policymakers should also understand how serious these issues are for Turkey.
"They go to the very heart of our national security concerns. Turkey’s S-400 decision wasn’t taken overnight," he said.
On the US argument that the S-400s pose “a threat” to US F-35 jet fighters, Kalin said Turkey has repeatedly proposed examining the issue from a technical point of view.
"They refused and then said it’s not a technical issue but a political issue. OK, so what is the political issue? The fact that we are buying this from Russia? Let’s talk about that and how we can address this issue together," he said.
He also said that when Turkey purchased the S-400, there were also "some points of disagreement" with Russia, but they were overcome through "constructive dialogue."
Kalin asked why the same approach cannot be taken in settling issues with the US.
"If another country comes to us with a maximalist position and demands you know, ‘It’s either my way or the highway,’ that kind of attitude pushes you in other directions," he said.
In April 2017, when its protracted efforts to buy the Patriot air defense system from the US proved fruitless, Turkey signed a contract with Russia to acquire the S-400 system.
US officials have voiced opposition to its deployment, claiming it would be incompatible with NATO systems and would expose F-35 jets to possible Russian subterfuge.
Turkey, however, stressed that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and poses no threat to the alliance or its armament.
It has repeatedly urged a working group to clear up the technical compatibility issues.
Block of helicopters' sale
Kalin stressed that the US blocked Turkey's sale of combat helicopters to Pakistan, which will likely lead to the latter purchasing it from China and cause more detriment to Washington down the line.
On Dec. 14, 2020, through CAATSA, the US imposed sanctions on Turkey over its acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
The sanctions target Turkey’s Defense Industries Presidency (SSB), including Ismail Demir, the head of the SSB, and three other officials.
In July 2018, the SSB announced that Turkey and Pakistan signed a deal for the sale of 30 T129 ATAK helicopters -- the biggest single export in the history of the Turkish defense industry.
The T129 ATAK Multirole Combat Helicopter, developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries, has been optimized for specific hot and high performance requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces.
Relations with Arab world
Kalin said a “new chapter can be opened" in Turkey’s relations with Egypt and other Gulf countries "to help regional peace and stability."
"Egypt is an important country in the Arab world and remains the brain of the Arab World, is the heart of the Arab world," he said.
"We want to cooperate with Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya and on the Palestine issue, which seems to be forgotten by the world. If we could take bilateral constructive steps, it may help stabilize the region from North Africa to the Eastern Mediterranean,” Kalin added.
The presidential spokesperson highlighted that Turkey is aware of Cairo's economic and security problems.
"Having dialogue may develop our bilateral and regional relations. This also applies to the other four Gulf countries. We don’t have insolvable problems with any Arab country. We could turn a new page with Egypt and Gulf countries for regional peace and stability," he said.
On Saturday, Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said it is a very important development that Egypt has made a tender on hydrocarbon exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean respecting Turkey’s continental shelf limits
"We have many historical and cultural values in common with Egypt. When they are put in use, we consider that there may be different developments in the coming days," Akar said.
On Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country could sign an agreement on maritime jurisdictions with Egypt after taking part in negotiations.
"Depending on the course of our ties, as two countries with the longest land and sea borders in the Eastern Mediterranean, we could also sign an agreement with Egypt by negotiating maritime jurisdictions," Cavusoglu told a joint news conference with his Georgian counterpart Davit Zalkaliani in the Turkish capital Ankara.
When Egypt signed an agreement with Greece last year on the boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean, it respected the southern borders of Turkey’s continental shelf, Cavusoglu said.
Ties with EU
Kalin said Turkey has "positive momentum" right now in its relationship with the EU, adding that his country wants to see more progress.
"We have a much larger agenda with the EU then just exploratory talks with the Greeks. We have the updating of the migration deal. Everybody knows that it needs to be updated," he said, referring to the migration agreement’s fifth year, which expires on March 18.
"After five years, things have changed, and needs are still there. They are even deeper and we need to do more. It’s not just about money. By the way, that money doesn’t come into our coffers. It goes straight to the Syrian refugees, to non-governmental organizations and international organizations."
Turkey hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world.
"It’s just a matter of giving the Syrian people a sense of confidence and trust that they are not alone, that the world hasn’t turned its back on these people. Burden-sharing has been the missing part in this deal, and they know they need to do more," he added.
Kalin also said that the larger agenda also includes issues such as the provision of visa liberalization and the renewal of the Customs Union Agreement.
The 2016 deal allowed for the acceleration of Turkey's EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area.
Despite its EU candidate status, Turkey's progress towards accession has been stalled for years.
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