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US ultimatums not helpful: Turkey's defense chief

Possible safe zone should address Turkey's national security concerns, says Hulusi Akar

Umar Farooq   | 15.04.2019
US ultimatums not helpful: Turkey's defense chief


The take-it-or-leave-it deadlines coming from the U.S. do not help dialogue between Ankara and Washington, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Monday.

"Threats, ultimatums and deadlines do not help and they are not in line with the alliance’s spirit," Akar said at a conference on American-Turkish relations in Washington where he discussed Turkish procurement of the Russian S-400 missile defense system and pressure the U.S. has put on Turkey because of its decision.

"We believe this issue can be solved through constructive dialogue," he said of talks with its NATO ally.

Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase Russia’s system.

Washington warned Ankara of its purchase of the S-400 system, and in early April suspended delivery of parts and other services related to F-35 jets.

It has also hinted at sanctions through the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which was passed in 2017 against Iran, North Korea and Russia and combat those countries' influences across the globe.

U.S. officials suggested Turkey buy the U.S. Patriot missile systems rather than the S-400 from Moscow, arguing it would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge.

Turkey, however, has emphasized the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO operability and therefore would not pose a threat to the alliance.

"There is no change in Turkey’s commitment to NATO," Akar said.

Another area of concern for both sides is the plan for a safe zone along the Turkish-Syrian border.

In December, U.S. President Donald Trump suddenly announced the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, however, since then Washington has backtracked and said in February a few hundred troops would remain for peacekeeping efforts and to create the safe zone.

The U.S. has also mentioned that the safe zone would not include the YPG, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist organization.

"A possible safe zone should address Turkey's national security concerns," Akar said.

The U.S. and Turkey have already worked on another deal, the Manbij roadmap, which had a goal of removing YPG/PKK terrorists from Manbij to stabilize the region, which is located northern Aleppo province in Syria. 

Partnership with US in defense industry

Akar said he wanted to move further the current relationship with Washington in the defense sector, where Turkey is mainly a buyer of U.S. technology.

"We do not solely want to be a market anymore, instead we want to be partners as in the case of F-35s," he said.

He noted Ankara's growth in the defense sector, saying there has been a larger focus on "indigenous design" and creating its own defense systems.

Any U.S. investment in Turkey's defense industry should be viewed as a "win-win" for both countries, he added.

Turkey has been making a larger push towards the development of its defense industry. During the past few weeks, it hosted an aerospace exposition in Malaysia and a defense technology exposition in Brazil -- each showing off new planes, armored vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles.

"The Turkish defense industry is well equipped to be a partner and a significant player in regional and global markets," said Akar. 

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