By Umar Farooq
In an opinion piece to USA Today, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday the U.S. attempts to undermine Turkish economy hurt the NATO alliance.
The article outlined the Turkish commitment to the alliance, both in policy and military support, and stressed that the way to solve the tensions between Ankara and Washington is through diplomacy, not tariffs.
"President [Donald] Trump was right when he called on members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to step up their defense spending. But new American sanctions targeting Turkey — and the threat of more to come — alienate one of the few NATO allies that has been ahead of the curve," Cavusoglu wrote.
The foreign minister highlighted the country's commitment to NATO's defense spending, both committing to their guideline to spend 2 percent of the country's global domestic product (GDP) on defense, and already surpassing the NATO guideline of spending 20 percent on military equipment.
Turkey also hosts the alliance's second largest military force.
"The economic sanctions Mr. Trump’s administration is imposing on Turkey, however, are poised to disrupt any atmosphere of cooperation — all while global threats demand that we strengthen, not weaken, the ties that bind us together," he said.
On Syria, Cavusoglu cited a statement by a U.S. official saying that Turkey "suffered more casualties from terrorism in the past several years than any other Ally," and highlighted the strategic importance of its Incirlik air base which is being used by the U.S.-led coalition forces to fight Daesh terrorists in Syria.
"Over the past two years, we have arrested hundreds of suspected ISIS [Daesh] members, helping to prevent the group’s spread to Western capitals. In the face of this threat, Turkey has been the tip of the spear," Cavusoglu added.
He also recalled that Turkey welcomed millions of Syrian refugees, being one of the few countries to do so.
The tariffs sanctioned by the U.S. on Turkey will not just harm Turkey, but also harm the U.S. and Europe, according to Cavusoglu.
He used the warning by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which told President Donald Trump that his actions "harm the U.S. economy and undermine American global leadership".
"This reckless escalation needs to stop," said Cavusoglu, adding that both countries agree on a wide range of issues although they may have different views on significant ones.
"For everyone’s sake, we should address our disagreements with diplomacy, rather than threats and provocation, and with a commitment to facts and perspective," Cavusoglu added.
Turkey and the U.S. are currently experiencing rocky relations following Washington’s imposition of sanctions on two government ministers for not releasing American pastor Andrew Brunson, who faces terrorism-related charges in Turkey.
On Aug. 10, President Donald Trump ramped up his attack on Turkey by doubling U.S. tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports. Last Wednesday, in retaliation, Turkey increased tariffs on several U.S.-origin products, including alcohol and tobacco products and cars.