ANKARAThe US has proposed setting up a joint working group on its sanctions on Turkey imposed over the issue of Russian S-400s, and Turkish officials have agreed, Turkey’s top diplomat said Wednesday.
Such a working group, advocated by Turkey, could point the way forward to lifting the sanctions, imposed earlier this month, if compatibility issues between the S-400 and NATO weapons systems are addressed.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey had itself had earlier proposed a joint working group on the sanctions, which target Turkey’s Defense Industries Presidency (SSB), including SSB head Ismail Demir and three other officials.
“Now the proposal came from the US. As we naturally always favor dialogue, we said yes, and negotiations began at the level of experts,” Cavusoglu said during a meeting reviewing foreign policy developments in 2020.
Underscoring that opinions differ as to whether the sanctions are heavy or not, he said imposing sanctions is a misstep both politically and legally.
“It is an attack on our sovereign rights,” he stressed.
On Dec. 14, through its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the US imposed sanctions on Turkey over its acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
In April 2017, when its protracted efforts to buy an air defense system from the US proved futile, Turkey signed a contract with Russia to acquire the state-of-art missile shield.
US officials have voiced opposition to their deployment, claiming they would be incompatible with NATO systems and would expose F-35 jets to possible Russian subterfuge.
Turkey, however, stressed that the S-400s would not be integrated into NATO systems, and poses no threat to the alliance or its armaments.
Turkish officials have repeatedly proposed a working group to examine the technical compatibility issue.
Relations with EU
Stressing that the relations between Turkey and the EU experienced many ups and downs in 2020, Cavusoglu said the tension was intense as Greece, the Greek Cypriot administration, and France reflected bilateral issues to the EU agenda.
Despite this, he said, a prudent conclusion came from the EU leaders’ summit in December.
“We are ready to maintain our relations with the EU in a more positive environment next year,” he said, expecting the same attitude from the bloc.
Cavusoglu went on saying that Turkey’s humanitarian and entrepreneur foreign policy continued in 2020 without any letup despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As usual, our priority was diplomacy in 2020. We landed on the field where diplomacy was blocked, opened the way for dialogue and diplomacy again,” he said, stressing that Turkey became an important player in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus Island, Syria, Libya, and Upper Karabakh.
Cavusoglu said Turkey takes steps in line with its legitimate profits in the Eastern Mediterranean and tries to protect the country’s and people’s interests.
“When our calls for dialogue in the Eastern Mediterranean did not yield any results, we took action on the ground against unilateral steps,” he said, adding that Turkey’s seismic research vessels Oruc Reis, Barbaros Hayreddin, and Yavuz are operating in the region.
He reiterated that Turkey wants to achieve peace and stability based on the fair sharing of resources in the region.
Turkey has sent out drillships in recent months to explore energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting its rights in the region as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Turkey has consistently opposed Greece’s efforts to declare an exclusive economic zone based on small islands near Turkish shores, violating the interests of Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean.
Ankara has also said energy resources near Cyprus must be shared fairly between the TRNC and the Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving all outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue, and negotiations. Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.